Mr. Shi Retires from CRLS


Ramita Laoboonchai

Mr. Shi has taught Chinese at CRLS for twelve years.

Alma Kent, Games and Humor Editor

Over the past twelve years, Chinese teacher Zuwei Shi has thoughtfully developed a program that allows CRLS students to delve deeply into Chinese language and culture. As Mr. Shi prepared to retire last semester, we looked back at his life as an educator, mentor and colleague.

Graduating high school amidst the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s, Mr. Shi was prevented from transitioning directly into college, instead being forced to move to the Chinese countryside to work as a farmer. Soon after his move, Mr. Shi began spending his nights teaching at a local evening school. For two years, Mr. Shi was asked to teach Chinese, math, and physical education to elementary school students.

 In 1977, the end of the Cultural Revolution allowed for the first college entrance examinations in China in over a decade, and Mr. Shi was one of many young people eager to earn their way into university. His scores permitted him to attend a four-year college, where he continued to develop his budding interest in education. 

Mr. Shi then went on to earn two Master’s degrees in educational psychology, as well as his Doctorate in education from Boston University. It was through conducting research on immigration and education at Harvard that Mr. Shi was introduced to the Cambridge Public Schools, first teaching at the bilingual Chinese program at the King Open School and soon making his way to CRLS.

Mr. Shi’s program now includes five levels, from Chinese 1 to AP Chinese.”

Though there was a small Chinese program at CRLS before Mr. Shi’s arrival, it was taught in Cantonese rather than the more widely used Mandarin. Mr. Shi’s program started off just as small as its predecessor; however, it expanded quite rapidly as more students experienced his unique, conversation-based curriculum. Guided by the textbook he wrote and published in 2009, Mr. Shi’s program now includes five levels, from Chinese 1 to AP Chinese.

In 2013, Mr. Shi organized a trip to China that brought together students from CRLS, Boston Latin, and Westford Academy. In a Register Forum article from that year, students described the experience as “surreal,” opening their eyes to the unimaginable differences in cultures and created a space to explore the languages, traditions, and foods of various Asian cultures.

Reflecting on his time at CRLS, Mr. Shi explained that he will miss all of the teachers and administrators that supported him in creating the Chinese program over the years. He also noted that he is glad to have been able to teach Chinese to such a diverse community. Mr. Shi looks forward to a “new life”: traveling to the warmer climates of places like Florida and Los Angeles and exploring hobbies unrelated to teaching. 

Still, Mr. Shi’s students—new and old—can all attest to the love that Mr. Shi has for teaching. “Mr. Shi is an extremely passionate teacher,” said senior Marta Cremonini. “Whether he draws diagrams on the board or shares an entertaining story, he always works to make sure everyone understands the material.” Besides commenting on the memorable one-man-shows Mr. Shi would perform to demonstrate vocabulary, sophomore Mohan Hathi noted that, “Mr. Shi is an excellent ping pong player and can easily beat all of us with his extremely fast serves and spikes!”

This piece also appears in our January 2020 print edition.