For Chinese student Sebastian Brigham ’24, language learning doesn’t end when he leaves Zhaohong “Jenny” Li’s classroom.
BY JACQUELINE PRIMO LEMMON
Sebastian Brigham ’24 had studied Chinese before joining the St. Paul’s School community as a new Fourth Former in 2021, but he says it was his first term with SPS Chinese Teacher Zhaohong “Jenny” Li that unlocked a genuine passion for the language. For Li, seeing that spark of excitement in Brigham and other students is one of the things that’s most rewarding about teaching at SPS, where she currently serves as head of the Languages Department in addition to teaching, advising … and once tried her hand coaching lacrosse. Student and teacher alike say that living and learning in the fully residential SPS environment plays a special role in the academic experience — one that doesn’t end when they walk out of Li’s classroom in Schoolhouse.
“I see Mrs. Li all over campus and feel that she really does care about me as a student and as a person,” says Brigham, now a Sixth Former enrolled in Li’s Chinese Seminar class. “And with SPS being fully residential, we have the opportunity to have office hours at 7 or 8 p.m. in the library, even as a class. That’s an opportunity that I have never had before. The teachers like Mrs. Li are really willing to accommodate your schedule because they really want you to learn.”
Li says that immersive environment is exactly what she signed up for when she joined the SPS community from the McDonough School in Owings Mills, Maryland, in 2016. “At SPS, my relationships with each student develop a lot, and because of this environment, their life is a part of my life, too. I see them go to rowing from 3:30–5 p.m. and then run to the dining hall, and then go do homework. I understand more about their life.”
I came into Chinese last year and Mrs. Li saw something in me; she took that and ran with it. Her pushing me has made me more excited about the language and it’s sort of taken off.”