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Hamilton Teacher is Named Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation

By Mike Debraggio
Posted October 8, 1998
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A woman who grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China has risen to the top of her profession in the United States.

Hong Gang Jin, associate professor of Chinese at Hamilton College in Upstate New York, has been named the Outstanding Baccalaureate College Professor of the Year for 1998.

The award, which comes one year after Hamilton Professor of Geology Barbara Tewksbury was named the Professor of the Year for New York State, was announced at a luncheon today in Washington. It is presented by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and managed by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Jin says her primary responsibility as a language professor at a liberal arts college is "introducing students to different languages and cultures and making them aware of other ways to view the world."

"This award is an enormous honor for Hong Gang Jin and for our college," said Hamilton President Eugene M. Tobin, "and it is richly deserved."

"Many of us teach well," Tobin added. "Many do so with exceptional results and deserve the student acclaim they have earned. But only a handful of teachers have the capacity to make others work harder, feel better about their profession, and inspire them to dream of achieving similar greatness. Hong Gong Jin has that gift and Hamilton is extraordinarily fortunate to count her among our outstanding faculty."

Tobin cited Jin's work in language pedagogy, her development of innovative multimedia approaches to language instruction and her creation of a highly successful study abroad program as evidence of her pioneering approach to teaching. "She is," according to Tobin, "among the first, and certainly among the finest, of a new generation of teachers in the Chinese language field."

A Motivational Teacher

Alyssa Gillmeister, a 1998 Hamilton graduate, described Jin as a teacher who inspires students to challenge themselves.

"One of the most remarkable things about Professor Jin," according to Gillmeister, "is that no matter how much work she assigned, how unattainable her high standards seemed, how long and rough the road looked, what always remained the same was that she gave her students so much of herself ... that we had to give as much back.

"She gave more than 200 percent and we did too," Gillmeister added, "because anything else would have been insulting to her, ourselves, and our collective dedication to learning."

Another former student said, "Professor Jin expects so much from her students only because she expects so much from herself."

In addition to the praise she has earned from her students, Jin's pioneering work in the Chinese language acquisition field has earned her a strong reputation among her peers.

"While she prepares meticulously for each class," one colleague said, "she also possesses to an unusual degree the ability to tailor her teaching to the specific needs of each student at that moment. Jin is very demanding of her students, not being satisfied with anything less than their best efforts, yet it is obvious to all that she cares deeply about every one of them. Most impressive is her ability to motivate her students and urge them on to ever greater achievement, even when they are temporarily overwhelmed by the challenges of learning a difficult language like Chinese.

"Her teaching is of the highest quality," he added, "the pedagogical materials she has developed are cutting-edge, and her dedication to her students is unmatched among the hundreds of instructors I have been associated with over the past 20 years."

A Pioneer in Language Pedagogy

While the focus of Jin's commitment to her students remains the classroom, Tobin said, she has used her enormous creativity and energy in designing new programs and teaching materials that in a very short time have become educational models.

Among her contributions to the Chinese language acquisition field are multimedia-oriented materials that evolved from an experimental study comparing the effectiveness of various methods used in teaching Chinese. With collaboration from Hamilton College Assistant Professor of Chinese De Bao Xu and financial support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Jin and Xu created a multimedia CD Rom and related publications that use authentic Chinese language materials (sound, movie excerpts, television shows and news reports, photographs and animation) to provide instruction and cultural context for learning Chinese.

The CD and accompanying textbook and workbook for the intermediate level of Chinese language acquisition are complete and being used currently to supplement classroom instruction at Hamilton; the beginning- and advanced-level CDs and related materials are expected to be finished in the fall of 1999, although several of the lessons in those CDs are also currently in use.

Prof. Jin also conceived of, developed and acts as general director of the Associated Colleges in China Abroad Program at Capital University of Business and Economics in Beijing. The language-intensive curriculum for the program, which is sponsored and administered by Hamilton in collaboration with Oberlin, Williams and Kenyon colleges, was largely developed by Jin. It includes several unique features, including a Chinese-only language policy, highly individualized two-on-one and one-on-one classes, host families and weekly language projects.

Althou

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