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Woman follows in footsteps of her heroic teacher

By XIN WEN in Xi'an | China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-14 07:15
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Tang Zihan. [Photo/China Daily]

A student who survived the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008 at age 15 with the help of her teacher has become a teacher herself, and hopes to make a difference to young lives.

Tang Zihan, now 27, spent her first Teachers' Day in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on Thursday, with thoughts of that lifesaving teacher high in her mind.

She was a student at Beichuan Middle School in Sichuan province when the earthquake struck on May 12, 2008. She ran out of the classroom, pulled by her teacher. Stunned, exhausted and in shock, she lapsed into a coma and remained unconscious for 14 hours.

"I was rescued, but my teacher died. There was no support at the location where he was," Tang said. "He saved me, but I never had the chance to visit his family. I was always afraid to go."

Tang said she must have been destined to have connections with students and education. She was born on June 1, International Children's Day. A native of Beichuan county in Sichuan, she went to Xi'an for college, majoring in broadcasting. After graduation, she tried various jobs in several different industries, including real estate and banking.

She turned to teaching because of an experience with her first child, a girl born in 2016, who didn't talk until she was more than 2 years old. A good teacher gently guided the girl and solved the problem, and Tang took notice.

"Something touched my heart at that moment and I realized that teachers can help a lot," she said.

Last fall, Tang was recruited as an elementary school teacher by the Experimental Primary School affiliated to Shaanxi Normal University. She teaches Chinese to first-grade students and serves as the head teacher for 48 primary school students.

"I hope my students will become a group of children with light in their eyes and love in their hearts," she said. "Goodness is a must, and gratitude must be learned."

Tang wakes up at 5:30 am and arrives at her classroom an hour or so later to prepare lessons and do some cleaning.

Now a mother of two children, Tang said she sometimes feels guilty because she has less time to spend with her own children than with her pupils.

"When I go home every day, both of my children are asleep," Tang said. "They're not awake yet when I leave."

With seven lessons a week, Tang set standards for herself.

"A sense of responsibility is necessary for a teacher," she said. "The overall atmosphere and environment created by teachers can gradually have a positive influence on students-to some degree, at least."

The junior high school teacher who saved Tang's life in the earthquake was resourceful and knowledgeable and found a way to pass on his love of reading.

"He once told us that a long time ago, when he was a child, he would read books until he fell asleep. That inspired me quite a lot," she said.

"Now, I will carry on with the spirit he passed to me. I hope in the future that my students will become people who are always grateful to society."

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