Cheng first taught ESL straight out of college in Kazakhstan, a country in Central Asia. While he had the passion and desire to teach, he had no formal training to support his ambitions and the job became very challenging. Seeking inspiration, Cheng returned to the U.S. and attended Biola’s annual Missions Conference, where he first heard about the School of Intercultural Studies. It wasn’t long before Cheng was enrolled and on his way to becoming more equipped in his field.
“The reason why I chose Biola is…I wanted to be part of a TESOL program that somehow would teach me how to integrate the profession of TESOL with my faith.”
Cheng’s experience in Biola’s TESOL program exposed him to a community that was both supportive and academically challenging. The school is rich in diversity, so Cheng fit right in with fellow students as they shared in cross-cultural education. Because TESOL is a smaller program, each student gets the benefit of personally getting to know their peers as well as their professors.
“I think they [professors] are accessible, they are supportive and I felt like if I had any questions I could approach them. Because, they also know who I am, I felt like I wasn’t just a number or a face in the class…I felt like they were able to give me suggestions in a personal way, not just a vague or generic way. They know who I am, my passions, my interests, and they were able to advise me accordingly.”
While TESOL students spend much of their time reaping the wisdom of their professors’ expertise, they also get to hear the professors’ personal stories from their own missionary work. Listening to these experiences, TESOL students gain the support and inspiration only a Christian environment can provide. Professors at Biola are more than just teachers…they are lifelong mentors.
“What I really appreciate about professors is that in every course and every class that I took, they always emphasized the importance of just not seeing this as a job or a profession, but seeing this as a vocation like a calling and really letting our light shine through what we do.”
After graduation, Cheng was able to immediately apply all he had learned and return to missionary work overseas. Today, Cheng teaches English as a Second Language in Shang Hai, China. Cheng’s decision to attend Biola and become more fully equipped to teach English now makes a difference in people’s lives every day.
“Because of the quality of the [TESOL] program, I felt like I was definitely more trained as an ESL teacher, even in practical areas like planning a lesson or assessing my student needs and learning how to teach various skills of ESL.“
The greatest joy Cheng receives from his work, however, is in getting to see the transformation of people’s hearts as they learn about the love of Christ. Cheng has taken the spiritual and educational tools that Biola offered him, and is now able to watch God use his skills in the classroom on a daily basis.
“The part that I enjoyed and got the most from the program is the integration of the profession and my faith and seeing teaching ESL as not just a job or profession, but how to use that to make an impact for the kingdom… It’s the idea that teaching ESL itself is ministry, is outreach, and is making an impact on people’s lives.