Ani Avetisyan

At the heart of every school are the teachers who dedicate themselves to the academic and personal growth of their students. Teachers wear several hats: they are educators, leaders, mentors and role models, to name a few. Teachers are there not only to educate, but to inspire and lead by example.

Today we take a look at one Houston-area teacher who, despite the adversity he faced growing up, never lost sight of his goals and never stopped working to achieve them. Now a Chinese language teacher at International Leadership of Texas (ILTexas), Jeffery Wimbush shares his story to encourage and inspire his students to succeed.

When he was in second grade attending public school in Houston’s Third Ward, Wimbush had goals. These weren’t merely childhood hopes or dreams; they were actual goals that he wrote down and pledged to achieve. One of his goals was to learn Chinese. While that may seem unusual for a second grader, Wimbush was motivated by his school’s pen pal program, through which he was able to write a letter to a student in China. “I remember writing ‘This is how we write our numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5;” said Wimbush. “And I asked them how they write their numbers.” However, due to budget cuts at the school, the pen pal program was canceled before he was able to receive a reply.

Wimbush was determined not to let this setback get in the way of achieving his goal; instead, it steeled his resolve. After achieving other goals on his list, including learning Spanish, receiving a black belt in karate, graduating high school and then college, Wimbush never forgot his goal of learning Chinese. Having already taught himself Spanish in high school by reading books and watching Spanish-language TV, as an adult Wimbush embarked on a similar endeavor to teach himself Mandarin Chinese. He began with Chinese language textbooks, and asked a coworker (who was a native speaker of the language) to quiz him and help him practice. Eventually, he connected with the Houston Chinese Community Center for formal training.

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