It wasn’t just the strength of UNC Greensboro’s School of Education that first attracted Dr. Ye (Jane) He to campus.

Sure, the prospective PhD candidate knew of the school’s excellent reputation – word had made its way across the Pacific to Dr. He’s hometown of Shanghai, China.

It was the personal touch – the way the faculty showed sincere interest in her, both as a student and as an individual – that sealed the deal for Dr. He, who arrived in Greensboro in 2002 to pursue a doctoral degree in the Curriculum and Instruction (now Teacher Education and Higher Education) program.

“The faculty at UNCG were the only faculty who responded to my email, which, at the time, had a lot of very silly questions. But I had never visited the U.S. before, so I had a lot of logistical questions,” Dr. He says. “It stood out to have someone respond to my emails with such detail – I felt like I got to know the faculty before I ever stepped foot on campus.”

Dr. He uses that same personal touch now, as an associate professor of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). She brings a strengths-based mindset to her classroom and her research, focusing on how to leverage the individual strengths of students.

“I try to give my students ownership in the learning process,” she says. “My role is to provide tools for them to uncover a unique pathway to becoming a great teacher, because all great teachers are different.”

Dr. He prepares her students, many of whom are already teachers and are returning for a master’s degree, to bring that same kind of strengths-based focus to their classrooms of English learners.

“The population we work with may not always be perceived by everyone as having assets and strengths,” she says. “However, we use strengths-based education and an appreciative mindset to identify the learning opportunities and academic potential that come with having such a diverse classroom of language learners.”

Currently, Dr. He’s research involves significant collaboration with her students, recent graduates and the community – from planning new dual language programs to connecting Chinese headmasters and local educators in order to share strategies related to rural education.

Additionally, Dr. He recently received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education for her Engaging and Advancing Community-Centered Teacher Development project (EnACTeD). Over the course of five years, she and her colleagues will provide professional development for educators working with English learners, develop a new academic concentration for preservice teachers and a similar add-on program for in-service teachers, and implement ESL classes, workshops and activities for families.

“I have really, really enjoyed learning from my students and from the community. That’s what energizes me,” Dr. He says. “I’m just a facilitator and a connector. I’m learning the whole time.”

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian with Elizabeth L. Harrison, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Videography by Grant Evan Gilliard, University Communications