Interview with Danny Dyer, English Department, the College of Liberal Arts at Wenzhou-Kean University

Danny Dyer, a lecturer in the English Department of the College of Liberal Arts at Wenzhou-Kean University, won the 2021-2022 Excellence Award in Teaching. This year is his fifth year living and working in Wenzhou. During his time at WKU, Danny has enjoyed exploring the differences between Chinese and American ways of learning and writing and applying these insights to improve his teaching. Today, let’s visit Danny’s world to learn about his life and career.

As a first-generation college student, Danny believes in the integrity of education as a way of opening doors for all students. From an early age, Danny felt a passion for helping others, and teaching was the perfect outlet for this goal. “Education is a gift and a privilege,” Danny says. “It fosters the greatest aspects of humanity while enriching all of life’s experiences. I am grateful to be a small part of that process.” Raised in California, Danny worked with a diverse variety of underprivileged students before moving to China. At WKU, Danny commits himself to engaging with the university’s incoming freshmen, students who need extra warmth to welcome them to university life.

“The first year of college is fundamental for shaping how students will navigate the rest of college. At WKU, this first year is a bridge and an invitation to western academic culture.” In Danny’s freshmen courses, he uses student-centered pedagogy that encourages freshmen to experiment, take chances, and test their own assumptions. “It’s a thrill watching students grow. I love watching the little lights behind their eyes turn on as they find their confidence and their voices.”

Danny holds an MA in Literature and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, where he began his teaching career. As Danny explains it, his time in cold, dark Alaska was a challenging experience but one he credits with molding him into a serious educator. The love of exploration and challenging experiences that drew Danny to Alaska later led him to move across the world to become a lecturer in China. But Danny admits his first year at WKU was rocky, and it took some time before he learned how to teach Chinese students.

“I understood that the reluctance Chinese students feel to take chances and form their own opinions comes largely from high school pressure and pressure from parents. I wanted to know how to alleviate this pressure and give my students the peace of mind necessary for real growth. That first year, I went out of my way to ask questions and get to know where they were coming from. I probably learned as much from that first batch of freshmen as they ever learned from me.”

Danny’s warmth and student-centered approach has earned him a strong reputation among WKU’s students. Though his students enjoy high achievements in writing and English proficiency and develop a foundation they need for success in their other classes, Danny wishes students would understand that GPA is only one sign of success at university.

“It is totally understandable that students care a lot about GPA, but it’s not everything. To be frank, it isn’t much of anything in the long run.” Danny stresses the importance of college exploration by taking classes besides compulsory ones or engaging in interdisciplinary projects. He also suggests that students should take charge of their own learning in and out of the classroom. “Hopefully, after four years, each of you will be confident, ethical thinkers capable of developing your own minds and adapting to all of life’s surprises. And your lives will be full of surprises, I promise you. But the courage to develop your own ideas through critical reasoning, the wisdom to accept personal differences and collaborate professionally with others, are hallmarks of a good education. They will serve you well as you navigate challenges after this short, significant time at WKU.”

Writer: FU Yuxi

Proofreader: XIANG Wenwei