Disability no match for professor

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Disability no match for professor

Chung Yoo-sun, who received much attention for overcoming the difficulties posed by her cerebral palsy and becoming a U.S. university professor, is in the spotlight again.

Chung was among eight recipients of the 2012 Teaching Excellence Award given on Tuesday by George Mason University to honor its most outstanding faculty for the year.

The award is especially significant for Chung because the university gave her no special preference when deciding on recipients.

“America is very strict country when it comes to evaluation,” Chung said. “I was shocked when I saw ratings of my classes from students who said they respected me. It may sound paradoxical, but I’m happy because I received this award after going through everything.”

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 3, Chung faced permanent disabilities of her speech and motor skills. But she didn’t let cerebral palsy hold her back. Books inspired her to become a voice for those with disabilities.

With the help of her supportive parents and her now-formidable confidence, Chung moved to United States after completing high school in Korea. She hit the books and earned a doctoral degree from George Mason University with a focus in assistive technology in 2004. Then, she was awarded an assistant professorship.

Chung, now 41, teaches about assistive technology at the school for two and half hours once a week. But she’s busy for the whole week preparing each class as she needs augmentative communication devices to carry out her lectures.

Making power point slides and typing sentences to be read out by an alternative communication device is hard work for her. To ensure each lecture go smoothly without technological interruptions, she practices lectures before her actual classes - and has done so for eight years. She also published a book in Korea in 2008 called “A Miracle Doesn’t Come Like a Miracle.”

Chung said she couldn’t have become what she is now without her mother’s support.

Her mother, Kim Hee-sun, was a member of a famous pop trio, the Lee Sisters, in the 1960s. But she gave up her career to solely devote every minute to her daughter in 1973.

“After reading an entry in Yoo-sun’s diary that read, ‘Why did my parents give birth to me?’ From then on, I made a firm resolution to take care of my girl,” Kim said. “I’m proud of my daughter for taking a difficult path and creating a miracle.”

When asked about important lessons she has learned in leading her life, Chung held her mom’s hands tightly and said, “There isn’t only one way in this world.”

Her mother replied, “Chances surely come along when you don’t give up your goals.”

By Lee Sang-bok [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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