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University resources helped family excel

Sharon Huang, sons Yang and LeeSharon Huang still remembers standing outside her son’s fourth grade classroom at Denton’s Newton Rayzor Elementary School, watching him struggle to understand his teacher.

“I would go to the school a few minutes before the class let out for the day, and I’d stand at the door and watch my son during story time,” says Huang. “His blank expression would make me cry. He had been doing well in Taiwan, and I wondered what I had done to him by bringing him to America.”

On May 13, Huang watched her son walk across the stage at the graduation ceremony for the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, less than 10 years after a UNT center helped him learn English. Above, from left, Yang, Huang and Lee.

Huang, Lee Chen and his younger brother Yang arrived in Denton on Christmas Eve 2002, so that Huang could pursue a doctoral degree in educational computing. Lee and Yang grew up in Taiwan and spoke no English. 

After their first semester, Lee and Yang were struggling to master English and Huang worried that they would have trouble passing the state’s standardized tests.  

While working on her doctorate, Huang met Kathleen Mohr, associate professor of teacher education and administration, who worked in the Child and Family Resource Clinic. Mohr suggested that Huang bring her boys to the clinic for extra tutoring. Huang audited a Mohr class, so that she could use computer programs to help her sons.

The brothers, soon armed with new and rapidly-improving English language skills, began to excel.

  • Both boys received commended recognition on the TAKS that year, Lee on the math portion and Yang on math and reading sections.
  • By the end of sixth grade, Lee was removed from the ESL (English as a second language) classes and placed in an advanced reading class.
  • Both tested out of math courses and participated in the TAMS Summer Math Institute.
  • Both found time to study violin in the College of Music’s String Project.
  • In 2009, Lee was accepted to TAMS, a two-year residential program at UNT that allows exceptionally talented students to complete their freshman and sophomore years of college while earning the equivalent of high school diplomas. Lee was inspired to pursue TAMS by his friend Wen Chyan, a TAMS student who won a $100,000 scholarship in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, and is now studying at MIT.
  • This year Lee earned an honorable mention in the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship competition for computational biology research on heart disease. He plans to attend Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., to study molecular biology and biochemistry.
  • Yang also will attend TAMS in fall 2011.
  • Yang put his language skills to work by completing a novel while attending Calhoun Middle School. The book Three Songs of Tianleigh is a fantasy-adventure story about three brothers fighting against an evil warlord. Jaron Hataway, a UNT student edited the book for Yang, and it’s now available on Amazon.  

“I am thankful to UNT and DISD educators for helping my sons not only catch up in school, but truly excel. I am confident that both boys will be able to make a difference in our society,” said Huang, who earned her doctorate in 2008. – Alyssa Yancey, News Promotions

(Photo by Gary Payne)

Posted on: Mon 16 May 2011

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