‘It helped me at a personal level’: WKU Chinese professor wins teaching award

Molly Dobberstein, News reporter

Ke Peng, WKU Chinese professor and director of the Chinese Flagship program, was recently awarded to be the Southern Conference on Language Teaching “teacher of the year.”

After being awarded the 2022 Outstanding Teacher of the Year award from the Kentucky World Language Association, Peng was recommended to apply for the SCOLT award. 

Individuals who are able to compete for the award include 13 states in the southern region, Peng said. Teachers are evaluated on a basis of teaching styles and student recommendations, as well as recommendation from supervisors. 

“After the submission of the application materials in January, in March we had an interview with the selection committee,” Peng said. “Thirteen representatives from the thirteen states participated in the interview process.”

Teachers are interviewed on teaching philosophy, best practices, leadership skills and views and contributions to world language learning in their respective communities, Peng said. 

Peng has taught for over 20 years, and 12 of them have been at WKU. She said she was hired in 2011 and charged to build the Chinese major and minor program. 

“For the first two years I wrote 20 plus course proposals, then the major and minor program proposals,” Peng said. 

After meetings with curriculum committees, WKU Board of Regents and Public Education in Kentucky, the programs were approved, Peng said. 

“In my first two or three years I was always creating new courses, doing a lot of lesson planning,” Peng said. “After that, I spent a lot of time doing student advisement and building the program.”

Within the past five years, Peng was also put in place to direct the WKU Chinese Flagship, an intensive Chinese language study program and one of 13 Chinese flagship programs in the nation

Peng said one aspect of her work is to create curriculum to help students reach proficiency goals, and the other is to help hire, train and onboard part-time and full-time teachers. 

Peng hopes with her receiving of the teacher of the year award, she will help to draw students to WKU to be a part of the Chinese major and minor program. At the award ceremony, Peng was given two minutes for a speech, in which she promoted WKU first.

“The first thing that I did was to introduce our Chinese program,” Peng said. “I invited them to recommend their students to WKU.”

Peng said she hopes that with her speech at the conference, as well as the WKU border state scholarship, students can consider attending WKU for the Chinese program, causing it to grow in the coming years. 

In November, Peng will be competing at the national level for the teacher of the year for the American Council for Teaching Foreign Languages. Peng said she will compete with the other regional teachers of the year for the national award. 

“If I win that one, then I will be able to do my sales pitch at a national level,” Peng said. “I will be able to introduce our Chinese program at WKU and invite students from around the country to come to us.”

With the accomplishment of the award, Peng said it helped her be a better advocate for community engagement and a more effective program builder. 

“It helped me at a personal level, to be a better leader,” Peng said.

News reporter Molly Dobberstein can be reached at [email protected].