Humans of NAU: Yifan Pi

Selfie of Yifan Pi

Worldwide, men make up just 6% of the pre-kindergarten teaching workforce—and that percentage is even lower in China, NAU student Yifan Pi’s native country. An early childhood education major at Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College, Pi seized the opportunity to spend his junior year at NAU, where he took classes at the College of Education and gained hands-on experience teaching alongside Stephen Riek at Flagstaff Cooperative Preschool. The aspiring teacher shared details from his time working and learning Flagstaff and revealed why he loves working with young children.

What brought you to NAU?
There is a cooperative agreement between my university in China and NAU, so I had the opportunity to study at NAU in my junior year. I chose to come here because I want to get to know the cultures of different countries and understand their different customs and practices.

Pi aspires to teach pre-K because “children at this stage are so curious about the unknown.”

Why do you want to become a teacher?
I want to be a teacher to help children develop good values and grow up. Being around children makes me happy; I can always feel their infinite imagination and creativity.

What age group do you plan to teach, and where?
I want to teach pre-K children in China, because that is my favorite age group. Children at this stage are so curious about the unknown.

Why has it been valuable to teach and learn alongside Stephen Riek at Flagstaff Cooperative Preschool?
“Mr. Stephen” is the first male kindergarten teacher I have worked with. Some of his actions and education methods are worth learning. For example, he often organizes creative and imaginative activities to arouse the children’s enthusiasm, and he is deeply loved by them. He directly cares for and comforts children, but more importantly, he rationally explains the truth to children and lets them judge right and wrong by themselves.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far at NAU?
The supervised practicum with “Mr. Stephen” was important because it gave me work experience and taught me how to apply the knowledge I learned in my previous classes. Most impressively, it taught me how important it is for children to explore the unknown world.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was in primary school, I wanted to be a “businessman.” After I entered junior high school, I changed my mind and thought I wanted to be a lawyer.

Pi hangs out with friends and goes snowboarding on days off.

Tell me about a significant childhood memory and how it has impacted your life today.
When I was in kindergarten, there was an activity held in the classroom. It was about building a strong bridge by folding colored paper. We had to put coins on the bridge, and the person whose bridge could hold the largest number of coins would win the game. I got the first prize in the activity and won everyone’s appreciation. It helped me build my confidence and let me know I have the ability to succeed. 

What have you been most proud of recently? 
I planned a road trip in my last few months in the United States. Planning and booking a trip like that can be difficult for someone who lives in a different country, so I felt proud when the planning was over. The friends who came with me had a good time, which made me even more proud.  

What is your favorite way to spend a day off? 
I like to hang out with my friends or go snowboarding. 

What are three things on your bucket list? 

  • Travel to all the countries in the world with someone I love.
  • Buy a Porsche.
  • Find “the one.” 


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Jill Kimball | NAU Communications
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NAU Communications