Dear CAIS Community,
A global pandemic. Deteriorating air quality from the now annual wildfires. In recent days I have asked my colleagues, somewhat rhetorically, “What next? Locusts? Killer wasps? A pack of emboldened coyotes roaming Hayes Valley?” Head of Middle School Joe Williamson informed me that a puma had been spotted in his neighborhood recently…
I am writing with less dramatic but nonetheless impactful news. Chinese Program Director Kevin Chang has told me that he will serve to the end of the current 2020-21 school year, but that this—his 22nd—will be his final year at CAIS. For a few years running Kevin has spoken to me about the possibility of taking early retirement and returning to Taiwan where he could rejoin his family. I knew the day would come when he would make good on his plan to head back to Asia, but it has taken an interesting twist. Kevin was recently contacted by the Hong Kong International School (HKIS) who, after a year-long search for a Director of Chinese Studies and World Languages, offered Kevin the position. This puts Kevin 70 minutes by air from his family in Taiwan. HKIS is fortunate indeed to snag someone as talented, experienced, and gracious as Kevin Chang. Kevin’s family is, of course, delighted. Kevin himself is feeling equal parts happy and sad at once—he has called CAIS his “second family” for 21 years. I am sad and, of course, grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside him for the past 10 years—and the year to come.
If there is a person whose name is synonymous with Chinese immersion and with CAIS, it is Kevin Chang. In his more-than-two-decades career here, Kevin has served as a classroom Chinese teacher, Lower School Director, and for the past nine years as Chinese Program Director—a position that did not exist when I arrived in 2010 but that Kevin has defined, not just at CAIS, but nationally and internationally. Kevin is one of a small number of elite Mandarin immersion leaders in the US and internationally. He has delivered dozens of presentations at conferences around the country and the world. He is a sought after foreign language program evaluator and has worked nationally and internationally assessing Chinese language programs—including at HKIS. Kevin is the originator of two national-level Chinese language conferences: the Early Childhood Chinese Immersion Forum held annually at CAIS and the Chinese Innovation Forum, a collaboration with Middlebury Institute of International Studies-Monterey. He has authored articles and book chapters for the Asia Society’s Chinese Early Language Immersion Network (CELIN). Kevin has also been a major player in the federal STARTALK program, and each year he brought the most talented immersion leaders from around the country to CAIS for a week-long, federally-funded teacher training program that has impacted scores of Chinese teachers.
Here in Hayes Valley, Kevin has overseen multiple initiatives and innovations that have made CAIS a national and international leader in Mandarin immersion education. At CAIS we are known for our successful integration of Chinese and English curricula, and the collaboration between our Chinese and English speaking faculty is the envy of the immersion world. Kevin is fond of saying, “We do not have Chinese and English curricula, we have a single CAIS curriculum—some is taught in English and some in Chinese.” Kevin’s English curriculum counterpart, Cristina Calcagno, has playfully called Kevin her “work spouse,” underscoring how their tight, collegial bond closely mirrors the integration of our language programs. CAIS has the most robust assessment program of any Chinese immersion school in the country. Under Kevin’s leadership the majority of our Chinese teachers have been trained and certified by the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) to administer and score the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) and the Writing Proficiency Test (WPT). Kevin has introduced a number of other external assessments and evolved CAIS into a data-informed program that has seen consistent improvements in student achievement year after year. Kevin has also been a crusader for DEI initiatives and played an important role as a bridge in that area for our Chinese language faculty and staff who were born and raised outside the US. Perhaps most importantly, Kevin will be remembered for his humble, respectful, and courteous manner by all those with whom he works.
We will find an appropriate way to celebrate Kevin Chang’s contributions to CAIS at the end of the school year—in person, I hope. At this point it feels important to savor Kevin’s presence with us now. I will address the issue of searching for his successor in a separate communication in a few days.