Part of what makes Xi’An International school the school unique is the mix of personalities, backgrounds, and life experiences of our teachers.
In this series of articles, we want to explore into the backgrounds of our teachers that helps make XIS special.
Mr. Daniel Chang (often referred to as Mr. Dan by his students) has been a part of Xi’an International School since 2011. Since then, the school has his fingerprints in ways that may not be apparent – let’s dive into who is Mr. Dan and his contributions to the school.
Years ago, XIS wasn’t on Mr. Dan’s Bingo Card.
“…originally I was coming to China to teach at a university, …English conversation…”
But about a month before he left for China, the opportunity to work at XIS became available, and before he knew it, Mr. Dan was teaching high school and middle school science classes.
“So, yeah, it was quite the difference from what I was expecting to be teaching.
Fortunately, teaching science was a natural fit for Mr. Dan.
“I always loved science. I was done well in science classes, to all the science classes I could in high school. Technology, I have a degree in computers and business, but with a minor in computer drafting (CAD related).
“So, it just kind of seemed like a good fit.”
Since Mr. Dan arrived at XIS, he was asked to help the school overhaul it’s backend administrative systems. When he arrived, much of the administration of XIS was still paper-based. During his second year at XIS, we was asked by Principal Jack Vector to look into a new system.
“We had looked at mainly two systems, Sycamore or Pearson’s Powerschool. PowerSchool was going to be significantly more expensive and [I]probably would have had to go to the states for a month to train on it, during the school year while I was teaching, so that probably wasn’t the best option for us.”
“Sycamore seemed to work well, and it seemed every year we tried to add more things and just get more integration with teachers using it and everything like that.”
Another seismic shift in XIS’s use of cloud-based services came during the summer of 2020 when the school was considering how to move forward with potential remote learning that would happen throughout the 2020-21 school year. It was then that XIS moved to using Microsoft Teams. Mr. Dan and Mr. Papendorf then spent hours and hours in crafting small applets to help the school utilize and integrate Microsoft Teams into the daily workings of the school.
Much of what powers the automation in Microsoft Teams is something called “Flow.”
“…someone fills in a form [on] Microsoft and then the Flow on the backend sees, ‘oh, hey, someone submitted a form.’ They [Flow] look up who submitted it. They look up all information about this profile of that person, so we can then use that to like, ‘oh, this person in this grade with this person as their home room teacher submitted this form,’ and they can send their answers.
“Based on their answers, it can do a number of things like put an entry into a spreadsheet, it can send a message on Teams to specific people, all sorts of things.”
“It saves us time and allows us to get information out quicker, so like the absence form. Before it was like, went to one person as a phone call, and then they had to figure out, ‘oh, what buses are they on? Who do I have to notify? Who has to know this?’
Flow actually does all that for this person. It puts stuff on a list for them on who’s absent. It sends the correct notification to the correct teachers. It’s going to be looking up what bus that person rides or how they get home in the evening, and all those sort of things.
So it just saves that, you know, monotonous man-hours of time, something that someone else can look up or computer can do faster.”
Full Circle (sort of)
Mr. Dan’s journey to XIS was, in some respects, a homecoming.
“My grandparents on my dad’s side, they had been born in China. My grandfather had graduated college in China, …and then moved to the US to work.
“He got some various jobs at different universities throughout the US, but ended up in Wisconsin.”
One such university stop was in Nebraska, where he met Mr. Dan’s grandmother, and was the birthplace of Mr. Dan’s father. And while he considers his family pretty “Americanized,” there are still a few things that are distinctly Chinese in his family.
“The Hong Bao, for like birthdays and Christmas, my grandmother would do that a lot!”
“From Wuhan, I really like the re gan mian rè gān miàn（热干面）, the hot dry noodles. Nice and spicy. From Xian, I would say, I think, hu luo , sorghum wheat flour noodles are really good like that, either with the soup or not. Other things, almost too many in the name.
“My grandma made a really good pork, sweet sour pork, bone-in pork. The recipe went with her (once she passed away).
On his hobbies and other lighter things:
Mr. Dan is known for his love of board games and other table-top games. From ‘Merchants and Robbers’ to ‘Firefly,’ many a weekend has passed with him hosting people over for a round or two of some of his favorite games.
“I have a complete cabinet full of games at my apartment that has taken several years to amass. There’s some pretty big ones in there, too.”
Mr. Dan’s latest board game obsession is “Mega Empires” which could take 12-18 hours to play with as many as 18 people!
On Fridays, Mr. Dan can been see playing a game of pickleball with fellow teachers. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Xi’an has any pickle ball courts yet. It’s probably slowly going to it’s way over here…eventually it’ll pickup and some gyms will open that have pickle ball courts.”
Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin?
This past spring Mr. Dan enjoyed the release of Hogwarts Legacy, and played through all four houses. But as for the house he belongs to…
“I’m Gryffindor, according to the Sorting Hat and test on the official Harry Potter website.” And proud about it! “Oh, I’m happy [to be in House Gryffindor]. It’s a good house.”
We are grateful for the work that Mr. Dan has put into making XIS and wonderful, well-run school. Though he may not directly teach your child, you have been indirectly been touched by the systems he’s worked on behind the scenes!
So the next time you submit a form to XIS, know that it might have been because of a board game loving, pickle ball playing science teacher from House Gryffindor who loves reganmian and had a Chinese grandma who took her beloved sweet and sour pork recipe to her grave behind it!