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Xiaolu Shi, Modern Languages

xiaolu-shiGrowing up in Xi’an, one of the oldest cities in China, Xiaolu Shi was happily surrounded by the past. The start of the ancient Silk Road, the Xi’an City Wall, and the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang and his Terracotta Army—all this history fostered his love of learning. Xiaolu worked hard in school, but at the age of 12, he lost his parents in a traffic accident. “After that, I studied much harder, because I had no one to rely on. I knew I needed to work harder in school to have a better living in the future,” says Xiaolu, who teaches all levels of Chinese at Milton.

At Xi’an International Studies University he majored in English literature. After graduating, he took a job while studying to apply for a selective master’s program at the Beijing International Studies University. He was the only student in his province to get accepted to a three-year program, where he majored in English with a concentration in American studies, international relations and history. After finishing, one of his professors convinced him that he should continue to study in the United States.

“Because I was so interested in history, I applied to a master’s program at Brown University, because it’s known for its excellent teaching of history research methods. And I wanted to learn that, and then go back to China to teach Chinese and American history,” Xiaolu says.

But his plans took a turn because he met Milton’s modern languages faculty member Salomón Diaz-Valencia, who was attending a seminar at Brown. Xiaolu decided to stay in the U.S., worked on getting his Massachusetts teaching certificate, and then took a teaching position at Stoughton High School teaching Chinese, which he loved. He came to teach at Milton in 2017. He and Salomón are married and live in Wolcott House.

“I really enjoy Milton; it’s so much fun teaching here,” says Xiaolu. “As a teacher, you find satisfaction and fulfillment when you see students who want to learn and you see their progress. And it is also a place for me to learn, because we have such a diverse student body. When we talk about topics such as feminism, the students can always relate their own experiences or tell stories of their grandparents in China, in Africa, in Canada, or in the United States. Sometimes they know much more than I do! This is the beautiful part of Milton Academy. We have such a diverse environment.”

This spring, Xiaolu will travel back to China with Chinese faculty member Shimin Zhou and nine students on Milton’s new China exchange program. Part of their trip will include a visit to his hometown of Xi’an. And next year, Xiaolu is excited that the languages department will offer two new Chinese courses, which he created, for native or near-native speakers: Chinese Literature and Chinese: Major Issues in 20th-Century China.