DUCKS Mandarin Lead, Emily Zhao Xinping, shares about her love of books and linguistics, her journey to becoming a teacher and weekends with her puppy.


1. Where else in the world have you lived? 

I was born, and grew up in, Liaoning Province in China which is pretty cold and snowy at the moment. In 2011, I moved to Singapore to start my first job here. I joined Dulwich College (Singapore) in 2015.


2. Tell us about your family. 

My husband, Leon, runs a renovation company and also works as an interior designer. We are celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary in May which will be a wooden anniversary. I can’t wait to see what wooden present I get!  I also can’t forget our new family member, Xiao Zao, a 6-month old puppy.


3. What’s your favourite weekend activity in Singapore?  

I love spending my weekends in art museums and galleries. I enjoy the quiet time there, trying to figure out what the artists are saying through their art, which can be complicated! One of my other favourite weekly activities is taking Xiao Zao to a group puppy training lesson. We both are exhausted afterwards, but it’s worth it!


4. Did you always want to be an educator? 

It was a roller-coaster. I have wanted to be an educator since I was eight years old. However, I changed my mind as a teenager when my dream job was to be an author (you know, puberty). I began to consider becoming an educator again just before I started university.


5. What is your favourite book and who is your favourite author? 

It’s hard to pick one. One of my favourite books is Sophie’s World. I’ve read it a few times at different ages. It’s always inspiring me in some way! Can I pick a few favourite authors? They are Keigo Higashino, Agatha Christie, Isabel Nee Yeh-su and Haruki Murakami.


6. Tell us about a hidden talent or a top-secret that no-one would know about you. 

Not sure if this is a talent, in a Reception class a few years ago, when it was time for the children to line up after outdoor play, I could easily spot who was not in the line just by a quick glance.


7. Which five people would you invite to a dinner party, dead or alive? 

Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel, they are the embodiment of wisdom and grace. Stephen D. Krashen, a respected linguist, who tells everyone he knows that when you take photos, instead of saying “cheese”, you can say, in Mandarin, “Bing Qi Lin” (ice-cream!); you end up with a nice smile because you are picturing an ice-cream in your mind. How smart! Will Smith who makes me laugh. Finally, my mom, who has passed away. I really miss her.


8. What are some creative methods you’ve used to teach Mandarin? 

I give the children a chance to choose what they want to find out, how they want to learn and practice it, and how they want to present their learning. The children LOVE learning in this way! My lesson could end up with some children showing off their speech by doing a drama or a shadow puppet show, while other children play board games to practice vocabulary. It can get noisy but it’s always fun! 


9. Do you have a motto or saying that really resonates with you? 

 “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela


10. Do you have a most memorable teacher moment? 

So many! A thank-you card at the end of the year makes me feel that all the work I’ve done is valuable. The most memorable moment was four years ago when we had children performing a Mandarin show for their parents in the Alleyn Theatre. It was the first Mandarin show in DUCKS. I got emotional seeing how confident the children were and how much progress they had made during the year!