Staff Spotlight – Helen Han

Meet Helen Han, Chinese Teacher (Junior School)

Posted on in General

What do you most enjoy about teaching Chinese in the Junior School?

In my previous job, I was teaching Tasmanian secondary students for whom the subject of Chinese was optional. Here at St Mary’s College, I am so grateful that all our Junior School students are learning Chinese as a specialist subject from Prep to Year 6. I really enjoy the positive impact I can have on their understanding of the language, how they see the world, and their appreciation of Chinese culture and heritage. The relationships and connections I establish with the students is also special.

What made you want to study teaching?

I’m originally from Shanghai, which is where I trained as an English teacher (completing a four-year bachelor’s degree). After graduating, I worked in China as an English teacher in a secondary school for about two years (I majored in English and my second major is teaching Chinese as a second language). All students in China learn English as a compulsory subject from primary school through to Year 12.

I’ve always known I wanted to become a teacher, ever since I was a young child. Growing up, both my parents were very busy working jobs in the city. I attended a small primary school … my classroom teacher was like my second mum. She went above and beyond for her students, and this has left a lasting impression on me.

Why is studying a language other than English so valuable?

My experience has taught me that learning a language is not just about speaking another language, it’s about embracing a different culture and a new world perspective as a global citizen. When I was studying English as a major at university, I had to study the classics of English literature, including Shakespeare. This opened up a new world for me and influenced my move to Australia for my Masters.

What’s something you admire about your students?

The children are so passionate and keen to learn. Ali Lowe (the College’s former Junior School Chinese Teacher) did such a great job establishing a solid foundation for me to build on, which I’m thankful for. Our students are very dedicated – they have clear learning goals and I feel privileged to be able to support them on their learning journeys.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I probably wouldn’t change anything I have done in the past, but I would remind myself to dream big and embrace all the opportunities that come my way. Building connections within your chosen industry or profession is also important.

Can you share something that people may not know about you?

I love nature, which is one of the reasons why I love Hobart. My family and I live in Taroona and enjoy bushwalking. Having two dogs, we regularly head off for walks along the beach. I’m also a risk taker. Sky diving, scuba diving … I like trying different things and walking outside of my comfort zone. You’ve got to live a full life.

What is one thing you would love to do if you could do anything?

Another passion of mine is travelling, which unfortunately was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I miss the freedom and ability to travel when I want to. I really want to go to Europe. Finland is high on my bucket list. In the upcoming Term break, our family is going to Queensland, which will be the first time we’ve travelled with our two-year-old. We’re looking forward to warmer weather!

If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would be seated at your table?

I would invite Caroline Wilson-Haffenden, our Deputy Principal, to thank her for her incredible mentorship and for supporting me as a new staff member at the school. And Kevin Rudd, so I can invite him to the College as a guest speaker. As a new mum, I would also love to invite other mums so we can share advice on motherhood.

Do you have a signature dish that you would serve to your guests?

My husband, who is also of Chinese descent, does most of the cooking in our household. His signature dish is Kung Pao Chicken, which originates from the Sichuan province of China. For me, dumplings are my favourite.


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St Mary's College is located on the traditional lands of the muwinina people of the South East Nation. We acknowledge and deeply respect the palawa people, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community, and all Elders past and present. We are committed to learning alongside our students and community in this place, nipaluna, and support the continued sharing of knowledge and culture.