By Henry Slater
On his Nov. 27 birthday, Whatcom Community College’s Johnny Hu sent out a tweet reading, “My birthday this year is with my students and some close friends – parametric equations, hypothesis testing, and the Mean Value Theorem.”
“Typically my birthday falls on Thanksgiving break,” said Hu. “But this year it came after when I had to work. I was spending time with the topics I was teaching in class that day.”
Hu, 28, is a Chinese-American math instructor who began working at Whatcom in 2011.
“I like teaching math because, for me, it is easier to explain to students for some reason,” he said.
“I also just enjoy teaching in general, so I like connecting with my students and getting to know them.”
Connecting with students is an issue that Hu cares about, as evidence by his Twitter account, blog, and public Facebook account.
“It’s a way for me to let my students know what’s going on,” Hu said. “Sometimes I will tweet about class info, but that usually goes on my blog.”
One issue outside of math that is particularly important to Hu is diversity. “I also tweet about interesting news items, and if there is anything having to do with diversity, I tweet about it,” he said.
Diversity is important to Hu because of his background. “I am Chinese American, so I was fully immersed in Chinese culture,” he said. “That’s basically half of me. The other half of me is growing up in American culture, and both sides are important.”
It is easy to lose sight of your cultural identity, said Hu, “and I think it’s important not to discount your roots and your background. Especially with Asian Americans. I mean in the media, you never see any Asian American role models, and that kind of bothers me.”
Because of his background, Hu is fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese. “I grew up with my grandparents, so I typically speak Mandarin at home, and speak English outside of the house,” he said.
Students of Hu’s may have noticed that he keeps an image of a collage of math symbols forming the shape of a heart in his office, on his website, and in several other locations.
“It’s a logo that’s actually from a t-shirt offered on woot.com,” said Hu. “It has various symbols and equations. I like to think of it as the I-heart-math symbol.”