Faculty Profile: Chieh Cheng – Elite of Laguna Hills

Hi Chieh! Thanks for the interview! Let's start at the beginning. Where are you from originally?
Born in Hong Kong, but I grew up in Orange County, CA. 

Where did you go to college?
I went to UCLA for undergrad, and UC Irvine for grad school where I got my MFA in Fiction.

Why did you become a teacher?
I started as a Teaching Assistant while working on my MFA and writing my thesis, which later turned into a novel. During this time, it made sense to have a job that made me constantly think about the challenges facing a novice writer, particularly when many of the students at UCI are science/technology/math/engineering (STEM) types who usually aren't predisposed to writing, and who needed not only instruction, but a sympathetic ear and and an understanding perspective.

As the years went on, I realized that working with students was something I enjoyed and something that kept me in touch with the world.

As far as teaching at Elite, the kids have always been great to work with–intelligent, highly motivated, curious. I just had a student at the Laguna Hills Elite who'd developed a reading app for blind people. I tested it out and the phone took a picture of a page from a textbook and read it (!). It's nice being around people like that. They tend to teach me as much as I teach them. 

Everybody’s got a superpower. What’s yours?
When I was a kid, I always thought Cyclops' power of firing optic blasts was nice, though James Kakalios' The Physics of Superpowers reminded me that Newton's third law would mean that a single blast would snap his neck.

I'm no X-Man, so I'd have to say I'm excellent at being pretty good at a lot of things. 

What are some of your favorite study tips?
I don't think this is particularly revelatory–don't procrastinate and start early. Stick to a schedule and make sure you're physically and mentally rested before an exam.  

Who are some of your most notable role models?
There are a lot of people whose work I admire, but I've also learned that amazing work doesn't always translate to admirable people. At the risk of sounding saccharine, I'd have to say that the way my wife carries herself on a day-to-day basis is inspiring to me. And she does amazing work, too.

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