Piper Professor Nominee

Published on: January 30, 2009

Dr. Carolyn Ho, a past Lone Star College-CyFair Faculty Excellence award winner, has now been recommended for a state honor as the college’s Piper Professor nominee.

Texas colleges and universities may nominate only one professor for this most prestigious Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation honor given in recognition of superior teaching at the college level.

“I am completely humbled and honored,” said Ho, an LSC-CyFair founding faculty and current department chair of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL.) “I’ve been given this opportunity to highlight teaching in general and ESOL at a state level and raise awareness of this college.”  

Ho was born in Taiwan with dreams of becoming a singer and a writer. She came to the United States in 1989 to study literature. After a master’s in comparative literature, she switched to public policy and earned a second master’s. When she married, she volunteered with GED and ESOL students, which then led to her teaching career. 

“Teaching is an occupation to some, but a conviction to me,” she said. “It gives me a clear sense of purpose in life and, very often, brings the most interesting moments of the day.”

As an ESOL instructor and a CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) trainer, Ho can draw on her own experience to help students handle cultural issues in the classroom.

“Despite that fact that most of the ESOL students have earned a post-secondary degree from their countries or have had a successful career before coming to the United States, their independence immediately disappears the moment the social, cultural, and linguistic support structures are removed from them. Independence becomes something that they have to regain, first and foremost, through language proficiency,” she said.

While teaching allows her to cultivate independent learners, it also allows her to be creative.

 “Some activities have led to an ‘a-ha’ moment, while others bombed,” she said. “Successful or not, creative approaches to lesson planning make teaching absolutely exhilarating.”

But most importantly, Ho said she teaches because she knows she’s impacting a person, a family, a class, or even a society and that makes her hopeful about humanity. 

“Through teaching and learning, teachers and students alike become a better self,” she said. Changes, small and big, happen in the classroom but reverberate beyond it. Changes bring hope, and that is what makes teaching meaningful and purposeful to me.”

As a result of a system 2007 Faculty International Exploration Grant, Ho is now qualified to teach Chinese classes, which in turn led Ho, in collaboration with Robert O’Brien, history professor, to develop the system’s first Study Abroad course to China. This summer, they will be teaching in Hangzhou, China as part of a Learning Community that combines Beginning Chinese I and World History I.

In addition to teaching, Ho volunteers in the community and with the professional organization Texas Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TexTESOL) as a board member and past president. She actively participates in leading various committees, organizing cultural activities and festivals, leading seminars and presentations. 

“The selection committee faced a daunting task in selecting a winner from such a talented and dedicated pool of applicants,” said Dr. James Seymour, selection committee chair. “Dr. Ho’s passionate commitment to the learning signature, her outstanding volunteer and professional work, and her enthusiasm for teaching ESOL both here and in China elevated her within this impressive community of teachers to become the nominee.”   

Piper Professors winners will be announced this spring. LSC-CyFair has had two winners since the college’s inception in 2002.