Dream and Grow

Alum founds world-class bilingual school

PHOTO CREDIT: STEPHANIE YANTZ

Jerry Hsieh EdD ’07 built his career in manufacturing and finance, but a phone call with his family in Taiwan in 2003 gave him a new direction. After hearing that his father and grandfather were founding a school in his hometown of Taoyuan City, Hsieh decided to pursue an advanced degree in education at USC Rossier to help.

One doctorate and more than a decade later, Hsieh is CEO of Yoder Bilingual Academy (yoderedu.org), overseeing all aspects of the school’s international program. Named for his grandfather and founded in 2010, Yoder is expanding this year to offer a bilingual kindergarten and international high school division along with its elementary and middle schools.

“While Taiwan is a developed country, we are hoping to bridge the Eastern and Western culture and education gap,” Hsieh says. “One day, I hope that some of my students will become my fellow Trojan alumni.” ­

WHAT MAKES YODER A UNIQUE INSTITUTION?

We are one of the few bilingual/international schools that offer competitive Taiwanese and American Common Core State Standard curriculums in Taoyuan City; prior to the school’s establishment, families had extremely limited access to a Western education. Yoder is also among the first Taiwanese schools to incorporate the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) concept into the curriculum of both elementary and middle school.

HOW IS YODER’S MISSION REFLECTED IN ITS STUDENTS?

Our enrollment has grown dramatically, from approximately 40 students in our first year to more than 620 today, including from 16 countries such as Canada, China, Costa Rica, France, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, South Africa and the United States. I’m proud that many of our middle school graduates make high school selections based not just on their performance on the entrance exam, but on personal interest. Because they have been exposed to different cultures and learning experiences, these courageous students are unafraid to veer off of the traditional path and pursue their dreams.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT OF YODER’S FOCUS ON STEAM?

Our students, who are studying English as a second language, are not only seeing the world, but competing in it—in 2018, they won three awards in the 117th annual Concours Lépine innovation competition in Paris. They also received the silver and bronze medals among more than 7,100 teams from 63 nations in the 2018 Wonder League Robotics Competition. Yoder was the only school in the world to have two of the top 10 teams! Besides the top-notch instructors and parental support, I believe that our students’ achievements are primarily due to their curiosity and creativity, which we believe in cultivating.

HOW ARE YOU OPENING INTERNATIONAL DOORS FOR YODER STUDENTS AND YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY?

Due to a partnership with the Educational Testing Service of Taiwan, Yoder is the only testing center for both the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Primary and TOEFL Junior in Taoyuan City. Our goal is to provide the convenience of taking the TOEFL series of tests in-school for our students while simultaneously inviting students of other private and public schools in Taoyuan City to participate.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM USC ROSSIER?

Whether you serve in a public or private educational setting, being able to call yourself an educator comes with both pride and responsibilities. Always strive to do the best you can, and don’t be daunted by the hard journey, for the outcome is priceless.