Thornton Academy News

  • Academics
  • Upper School
Featured Faculty: Chia-Ju Phoebe Hsieh–Chinese Teacher & International Student Advisor

This week, we’re so happy to highlight Chinese teacher and International Student Advisor, Chia-Ju Phoebe Hsieh! Ms. Hsieh began teaching at TA in 2011 and currently teaches Honors Chinese I-IV and AP Chinese. She also advises TA’s Chinese Club and serves as an International Student Advisor. When she first began teaching K-12 ESL in Maine, she sometimes felt unsure of herself as a teacher. “The teaching styles, expectations, and communication with students and parents were so different from my own experiences in Taiwan...After more than 16 years later of teaching in Maine, I can finally say that I am confident as an American teacher!” 

Ms. Hsieh was born and grew up in Taiwan where she spoke two native languages— Taiwanese and Mandarin Chinese. Ms. Hsieh spent a lot of time studying English in high school and college as she planned to study in the US someday. During her sophomore summer break, a local language school where she had studied English asked her to teach a group of young Taiwanese children the ABCs at its new program. After two months of teaching, she realized how challenging and rewarding teaching was and decided that was her career goal.

Soon after she graduated from college in Taipei, Taiwan, she enrolled as a graduate student in the TESOL program New York University and earned a master’s degree. She immediately began her career and has been teaching language for more than twenty years. She taught English to adult immigrants at community-based agencies in Boston; brought English to junior college and high school students in Hualien, Taiwan; founded and operated an English school in Taoyuan, Taiwan; and taught English and Chinese at primary and secondary schools in Maine.

When Ms. Hsieh isn’t teaching at TA, she spends time with her husband Scott and their two daughters, Fay and Trea. All of her family still lives in Taiwan, so she returns every summer to She talks on the phone with her Taiwanese friends and family on weekends, though text to each other throughout the weekdays. “When I truly have time to be alone, I enjoy reading, thinking, and writing the most...Oh, and the only thing I will NOT do is outdoor activities, such as gardening. I really don’t like bugs or bug bites!”

What is the best thing about teaching at TA?
“I love my job at TA, both as a Chinese language teacher and an International Student Advisor. As a language teacher, I am able to share my native language and culture with American and international students. As an International Student Advisor, I am able to support our international students with my experiences being one myself, both at graduate school and as an ESL teacher in Maine K-12 schools before I came to TA.”
 

What is a favorite TA memory? 
“My favorite memories at TA are the times that I’ve spent working with day and international students for Chinese Club events and former Book Club discussions. Those experiences were physically demanding, but definitely exciting and rewarding. 

Now I understand why people love spending time at group activities. As a student in Taiwan, I never joined any extracurricular activities or sports because students were strongly encouraged to spend most of their time studying to prepare for high school and college entrance exams so that they could attend good schools which led to good jobs. Sports and extracurricular activities were considered a waste of time. 

I am very glad to share that I have certainly changed my mind on this belief since I have been at TA. In fact, I believe that sports and extracurricular activities are as important and valuable as academic study!”

What do you hope for your students? 
“For my students in the Chinese program, I hope that they not only gain the knowledge of Chinese language and culture, but also develop their own critical thinking to reflect on their own culture and the larger world around them. For the international students, I hope that they take the opportunity to get more involved in all kinds of after school activities, so that they can truly experience the American culture beyond classrooms.”

What do you hope for the future of TA? 
“I feel very fortunate to work at such a caring and yet big school in a beautiful state with the most diverse student population! I hope TA continues to be an open and diverse educational institution while providing the most high-quality and comprehensive academic and extra-curricular programs! The boarding program brings the world to campus. I hope to see more interaction between the day students and the international students because they are our future.” 

Faculty Fun Facts!
“I love books and movies, so there are too many favorites! I read books in Chinese and enjoy listening to English audiobooks. I am currently listening to Pema Chodron's books at night and A Promised Land by Obama when I am doing housework. I love all great movies as long as they are not horror ones. Korean dramas are my guilty pleasure to relax and when biking at home.