Chinese teacher Sherry Hung announces retirement

Hung says “再见” (Zàijiàn: goodbye) to Oak Park High School

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Photo Courtesy of Sherry Hung

Hung stands beside her mother at a concert in Vegas to see her mother’s favorite singer “Fei Yu-Ching” from Taiwan, who was giving a before-retirement concert tour.

Chinese Language and Culture teacher Sherry Hung, or 吴老师 (Wú lǎoshī) announced her retirement after 17 years of teaching at Oak Park High School at the end of February. One month away from turning 60, Hung found it most suitable to tend to her 82-year-old mother, who is experiencing various health issues.

Hung began her career teaching fifth graders for two years before transferring to Oak Park Unified School District, becoming the district’s first Chinese teacher, a job that diversified the county norm of mainly Spanish and French. In the entirety of Ventura County, only 5 out of 20 or 25% of schools teach Chinese.

For the past year, Hung has made a point to never keep her phone on silent, even if this meant receiving an influx of spam calls, because she is perpetually concerned about the welfare of her mother.

“It’s hard to leave this job, but I have come to the conclusion that my mom needs me, too,” Hung said. “My mom only has one daughter.”

Coming from a lineage of fun-loving people, Hung, in addition to her mother and her daughter, Kaitlin, all are proud jokesters, always in it to have a good time

“In terms of personality, she’s very talkative [and] she likes to joke around,” Sherry Hung said. “Sometimes, [my mom] will say things that [make me] say ‘Really, do you mean that?’ and she says ‘No. I’m just joking!’”

A longtime friend of the teachers within the language department,  many will have to say “adiós,” “au revoir” or sign goodbye.

Hung stands beside her Chinese I class in Chinatown during the 2017 field trip. (Photo Courtesy of Sherry Hung)

Sherry Hung and I both have the same first name,” Spanish teacher Sheri Boone wrote to the Talon. “To avoid confusion, the World Language Department fondly calls her by her nickname, Lucki. I do not believe in ‘luck’, but if I did, I would say I am the luckiest of all to call her my dear friend.  Even though we are from different countries, different cultures and teach different languages, Lucki will always be my ‘sister’ in my heart. Lucki, I will miss your smile and hugs, but I will always keep in touch. Love, your sister.

OPHS junior Abigail Daywalt has found her place as a prolific Chinese student, who Hung describes as “creative and talented … [student who] makes teaching Chinese a joy.”

“Mrs. Hung has been a huge inspiration to me. When I first entered the classroom, I had no idea how much I would fall in love with the language. She taught us in such a way that every word we learned was like a secret we were in on,” Daywalt wrote to the Talon. “Whenever I’d see Chinese writing anywhere in public and recognize a character, it was so shocking to me that I could understand it. It still is.”

Photo Courtesy of Sherry Hung

Daywalt also expressed Hung’s consideration when making personalized names for each student, each with a phonetic English spelling. However, Daywalt is not alone in her appreciation of Hung. OPHS Principal Kevin Buchanan shares the same sentiments, praising Hung for her many years of hard work.

“We are so happy to wish Ms. Hung congratulations on her retirement and her career,” Buchanan wrote to the Talon . “She was instrumental in creating the Mandarin Chinese language program and has been a valuable and dear member of the OPHS family.  While we are sad to see her go, we wish her all the best in her retirement.

Students perform a traditional Chinese lion dance for OPHS to emerse more about Chinese culture. (Sam Barney-Gibbs / Talon)

Hung’s class, transcending just the lingual aspect of Chinese, has taught culture for almost two decades, educating generations of students about cultural norms of respect, modesty, food, Zodiac signs, holidays and ancient stories of China. On top of that, OPHS celebrates several Chinese cultural events annually, much of which can be attributed to Hung.

“Our country is a mixture of different cultures,” Hung said. “To move on as one country, we need to know that there are different things that we want to learn to appreciate … I hope [my students] continue to be interested in other languages and other cultures.”

Blake Hanlon / Talon

Hung also hopes that the following Chinese teacher enjoys students the way she does, finding a fun way to teach the language, like calligraphy, traditional games and dancing. Hung’s favorite memories of teaching, in fact, were dancing with the students to Chinese songs.

“Many people [say], ‘Oh, Chinese –– that’s a hard language to learn’ … well, any language is not easy, but it should not be too hard [either],” Hung said. “[Retiring] has been a very difficult decision. I [thought] long and hard, because I love my job, I love this district [and] I love my students.”