English alumnus Sean Pang ’09 delivered a GRIT-X talk during UMBC’s Homecoming in which he recounted his “fortune of misfortunes,” including the culture shock and language barrier upon his immigration to the U.S. as a small child as well as poverty and eviction during his undergraduate studies. When he started teaching in Baltimore City after graduating from UMBC, he was the only Asian person in the room, but his background of challenges helped him connect with students. “When they see me come into the classroom, with a smile on my face, with passion, and dedication, and kindness, they see hope,” he shares, “hope that they can make something better from their lives.”
Pang, who was the Washington Post’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, had three recommendations for audience members. First, he said, be kind. In kindergarten, a classmate gave him a plastic dinosaur that Pang keeps to this day—it was the first act of kindness he remembers from a peer in the U.S. Second, “Try everything, because that will lead you to find your passion.” And once you find it, “use it to give hope, because hope is the greatest gift you can give.”
To read more about the GRIT-X presentations, please visit http://news.umbc.edu/grit-x-talks-showcase-experiences-of-outstanding-faculty-and-alumni-from-outer-space-to-inner-space/.
Sean Pang’s talk is also available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFp6OLKSbJM&list=PLnj_pHJHgqkX1s5m_fJxznO-hJNC1aiDm&index=5. He discusses “finding his passion” with English around the fourteen-minute mark.