Brian A. Williams, Ph.D.
Yvonne Saalman has been an instructor in Mandarin for elementary school students
in grades 1 through 4 at St. Elizabeth Parish School in Altadena, for 3 academic
periods: Summer 2012, Fall 2012 and Spring 2013. She was hired as an instructor
for our after school enrichment program. To be hired for this position, she interviewed
with the school principal, Mrs. Jeanette Cardamone, and was required to pass the
standard background checks and safety training that are required by the Los Angeles
Archdiocese for all adult staff working with children in the Catholic schools.
Mrs. Saalman was recommended to me by one of her clients, Doug Kremer, who is a
deacon in our parish [and department Chairperson at Woodbury University]and a parent
at St. Elizabeth Parish School, which my daughters attend. I was looking for a Mandarin
tutor for my three daughters, ages 10, 7 and 6. An opportunity arose at our school
to form a language instruction class during the summer session, so I got involved
by organizing a group of parents who were interested, and recommended Mrs. Saalman
for the program.
Mr. Kremer’s enthusiastic recommendation came from his experience as an adult student
of the language with Mrs. Saalman, and from her work at Woodbury College where they
both teach. At the time, we did not know whether her abilities would translate well
into the elementary school classroom.
It was apparent from the start that Mrs. Saalman has natural talent with elementary
school children. You will first see this when you watch her greet her students outside
class, and you observe how they respond to her. Mrs. Saalman has an infectious warmth
that seems to bond the students in her class for cooperation and learning. My own
daughters responded enthusiastically with big smiles after the first day of class
when I asked them how they liked their new teacher.
This first impression has since grown into a warm and respectful friendship; they
genuinely miss seeing her during the months that we are not scheduled for instruction.
I regularly poll the other parents in the program, and their experience has been
the same, for both male students and female students, from 4th grade to 1st grade.
Some of the other parents of students in the class have remarked that they appreciate
that Mrs. Saalman’s class is well organized, and that she has high expectations
of performance from the students. They are all delighted and grateful that their
children are learning this valuable skill during the optimal developmental period
for language acquisition, from such an accomplished and talented woman.
My children had only minimal verbal exposure to Mandarin from home videos and my
clumsy tutoring using the Pimsleur language system, prior to working with Mrs. Saalman.
They had not encountered Mandarin characters or the pinyin system of spelling. Naturally,
my girls struggled with the first few classes, as Mrs. Saalman patiently guided
them through unfamiliar territory, introducing a wide range of useful vocabulary
in the spoken language, and teaching them how to write in both pinyin and Mandarin
characters. My daughters now have a better ear for intonation, although this will
need much more work in the future, and they have a good memory for the vocabulary
that Mrs. Saalman has already taught them. I am continually surprised at how easily
my youngest daughter can generate Mandarin words from memory unprompted; even many
months after the initial instructions.
My 7 year old daughter Rosie has very good fine motor coordination and is a naturally
motivated artist. Her renditions of the Mandarin characters that she has been taught
are coming with less effort and more fluency, and she regularly teaches her younger
sister how to sketch them. My 10 year old daughter Madeline has made the most impressive
progress of the three. She is close friends with the top scholar in her class, who
is also taking Mrs. Saalman’s Mandarin class. Madeline has improved her ability
to organize her material and is beginning to show a more thorough and mature understanding
of the links between the vocabulary and ideas that have been taught. I find this
all terrifically exciting.
In summary, our first three academic periods with Mrs. Saalman have been a big success
for the students in the program. The parents that are involved are all very enthusiastic
about continuing during Fall 2013. Along with my gratitude for agreeing to take
this new assignment, and my respect for her talents and abilities, Mrs. Saalman
has earned my trust and my highest recommendation as a teacher for her work with
my children and their classmates. Please contact me at the email address below if
I can be of any further assistance.
Brian A. Williams, Ph.D.
Director, Functional Genomics Resource Center
California Institute of Technology
I am presently a fifth-year student entering my final semester of architecture school
at Woodbury University. Throughout my life as a student, I have had the privilege
of traveling the world and meeting some incredible people. This past summer I participated
in a study abroad program in China, which prompted me to learn the Chinese language.
I have since taken Yvonne Saalman’s Chinese language course at Woodbury University.
In only fifteen meetings, Yvonne’s teaching methods have allowed me to read, write,
and speak Chinese with a level of comfort and confidence that I did not think plausible
in such a short period of time. Yvonne has a unique ability to inspire her students
to challenge themselves and strive to achieve more than they initially think they
can. She is encouraging, yet difficult to please; no incorrect pronunciation goes
unnoticed, as she patiently works with each student to achieve excellence. Yvonne
never settles for mediocre or simply satisfactory work. It is this inherent drive
to raise the bar that makes her such an inspirational educator.
Apart from being absolutely dedicated in the classroom, Yvonne is more than willing
to help her students outside of class. On numerous occasions, I have called or e-mailed
Yvonne with questions, and she has always been there with an immediate response.
As a student, it is sometimes easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged by the
amount of work that we are asked to produce in all of our classes. However, my experience
with Yvonne has taught me to remain persistent and motivated in everything that
I do. Her personal story of how she had to leave China with almost nothing and start
a life of her own is one that has inspired me greatly. Yvonne opitimizes the true
teacher, in that she does not simply teach her students a subject; she teaches them
to become better people.
Lisa Binder, Esq.
I am delighted to write this letter on behalf of Yvonne Saalman.... I have an A.B.
in Classics from Harvard, an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Berkeley, and a
J.D. from Harvard Law School. I have studied a variety of languages both inside
and outside of the university classroom, including Latin, ancient and modern Greek,
German, Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin. Yvonne is without question one of the best
language teachers I have had.
I was a student in Yvonne's Mandarin class at the Beverly Hills Lingual Institute
in 2008 and 2009. In our class we used the Integrated Chinese, Level 2, textbook,
and Yvonne's focused and organized instruction was instrumental in helping me acquire
the reading, writing, speaking and comprehension skills emphasized in the textbook.
Yvonne consistently challenged us to improve our skills while making sure that our
questions were answered before we proceeded to the next step in each lesson.
Yvonne's patience and her ability to explain complicated points of grammar and syntax
in ways that her students can understand make her an excellent teacher. She is also
dedicated to identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each particular student
and tailoring the lesson to focus on areas that need improvement. Yvonne often stayed
after class to answer questions and to clarify particularly difficult points of
grammar for her students.
Lisa Binder, Esq., Harvard Law, April, 2010
It is with great enthusiasm that I write this letter of recommendation on behalf
of Yvonne Saalman. By way of background, I am a Los-Angeles-based attorney and public
relations professional who has had the pleasure of taking Mandarin Chinese classes
with Yvonne for over two years at the Beverly Hills Lingual Institute.
Quite simply, Yvonne is a talented and dedicated Chinese language instructor who
exhibits the highest level of diligence and professionalism. Yvonne has the unique
ability to make learning a new language both fun and interesting. Not only does
she teach her students the core principles of tone, pronunciation, grammar, and
reading and writing Chinese characters, but she also injects her lessons with fascinating
stories and jokes about China and Chinese culture. I genuinely enjoy going to class
when Yvonne is teaching—so much so that I could not imagine learning from any other
Yvonne is truly committed to her students. She is eminently patient and tailors
her approach to each student according to his or her proficiency. Although her services
are clearly in high demand—she teaches at the Institute several nights per week
in addition to providing private lessons to multiple clients—she always makes herself
available to students both in and out of class to answer questions and provide additional
learning resources. I often wonder and am amazed by how she is able to juggle so
In a relatively short period of time, Yvonne has transformed me from someone who
knew not a single Chinese word or character, to someone who is comfortable with
basic conversation, reading and writing (although I prefer to write the Chinese
characters on the computer). I am often complimented on my Chinese skills and have
even been asked by my employer to travel to China to conduct business there. I owe
most of my progress and ability to Yvonne and her teaching.
Steven M. Levin
Helena Duey Malchione
It is a sincere pleasure and honor for me to recommend Yvonne Saalman as a teacher
of Mandarin. Yvonne has worked privately with me on an intensive study of Mandarin
for the past ten months, during which time she has engaged and challenged me in
every imaginable way.
Throughout my time studying with Yvonne, I have admired and respected her many valuable
qualities. Yvonne’s patience and diligence lend themselves to the constant and rapid
improvement of the pupil. She is quick to identify the individual strengths and
weaknesses of her students, and she responds aptly with appropriate exercises and
commentary to enable the student in question to overcome every lingual obstacle.
I have also greatly admired Yvonne’s genuine dedication to all of her students.
She demonstrates this dedication through her flexibility with her schedule, her
willingness to work at whatever pace set by the student (however rapid that may
be), and her meticulous attention to creating personalized homework assignments
for each student.
My difficulty mastering preposition grammatical structures, for example, prompted
Yvonne to create a series of translation homework assignments specifically targeting
this weakness. I have been truly impressed by Yvonne’s personal investment in my
success as a student of Chinese language.
In just ten short months, I have made tremendous improvements in my reading, writing,
and speaking skills due to Yvonne’s teaching methods and dedication. Native Chinese
speakers have showered me with compliments on my pronunciation, my easy fluency,
and my depth of understanding of Chinese culture; I forward every compliment to
Yvonne, without whom none of my current skills would exist at the level that they
In closing, let me say that I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Yvonne
Yang for teaching Chinese language and culture. She would be an asset to any student
Helena Duey Malchione, Yale University, Class of 2012
Teck Jin Lim
I am an English language instructor who graduated from Pitzer College in 2006, with
a BA in English and world literature.
I write on behalf of Yvonne Saalman, to recommend and render a testimony to her
tutelage in Mandarin. In five months of study with her, I have gone from knowing
almost no Mandarin whatsoever to reaching an early-intermediate level in reading,
writing and conversation. I credit this to Yvonne for what I feel is an incredible
achievement for me, to reach this level in such a short time span, despite a month-long
gap in my studies.
Yvonne is a thorough professional and experienced Mandarin instructor who exemplifies
patience, with an ability to calibrate lessons to the needs of her students. She
is very aware of an individual student's specific strengths and weaknesses and is
able to pace the learning experience to fit the student's need. Where I had problems
learning Mandarin from earlier instructors, Yvonne crafted lessons that clarified
and eliminated blocking language features and obstacles that had once seemed insurmountable
Whether you've had experience learning Mandarin or not, Yvonne has a unique skill
in assessing and teaching to the individual learning style of each student, to inhance
his or her prowess. You'll find that time spent in her lesson sessions and doing
her personalized homework upgrades your Mandarin skills immensely.
Teck Jin Lim