Skip to main content

From Scrabble to storytelling: Fulbright Scholar's love of language leads him to Taiwan

portrait of ASU graduate Kyle Renick
July 07, 2014

Kyle Renick has always wanted to teach English.

His love of the language and its ability to bring together people came early when an eight-year-old Renick cut his teeth over games of Scrabble with his grandmother, who taught him the importance and power of words. She believed in tough love, almost always winning their games by three hundred points.

“I can’t let you win,” she told him. “Because some day, when you beat me on your own, it’s going to mean something.”

Now Renick, recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship award to Taiwan and a journalism graduate from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, wins the games and credits his grandmother for his perseverance and hard-earned victories at Scrabble and outside of it. He has continued to push himself to do his best at any given opportunity, teaching English in the sixth grade and helping teach at an elementary school during senior year of high school.

“In sixth grade, I was assigned to teach a young boy named Dominic,” Renick recalled. “On our last day of tutoring, he gave me a hug goodbye and I knew then that teaching was my calling.”

Keen on taking his knowledge of the English language a step further and challenging himself, Renick enrolled in an associate degree program at Mesa Community College while still in high school. The program allowed him to take advanced English classes alongside a diverse group of students, and helped him tell stories – his and imagined – through impassioned, creative essays.

“I attended a small high school that did not have an extensive roster of extracurricular activities, so I was thrilled at having a writing outlet at college level,” said Renick.

After graduating with an associate degree a week before his high school graduation, the Fountain Hills, Arizona, resident earned a full scholarship to ASU to pursue a journalism degree, where he flourished as a writer and speaker. Unique experiences and hobbies such as writing about politics and pursuing horology – the study of time and clocks – abounded. He also worked as a columnist for ASU’s student newspaper, The State Press, and interned as a reporter at Arcadia News and InMaricopa.

But the more he wrote, the more Renick found himself thinking about returning to his first love, teaching the English language. The then-journalism student learned about the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate, which he earned quickly. The inspiration to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Taiwan came from a dear friend.

“My friend Lorraine always told me stories about her Taiwanese heritage and life in the Asian country, describing the culture as dynamically different from the United States,” he said. “She also spoke of the progressivism in Taiwan, distinct among Asian countries as being the first to attempt to legalize same-sex marriage. This social change fascinated me. The world is fast-moving, and Taiwan is part of the movement.”

According to Renick, even though he didn’t train as a teacher, his experience at the Cronkite School has taught him to communicate well and adapt quickly to evolving situations – qualities that will come in handy during his time in Taiwan. In addition, he has been interning as a teacher of English to refugees in Phoenix via the International Rescue Committee, and researching potential volunteer opportunities in Taiwan in organizations involved in youth development.

“Teaching English in Taiwan is an opportunity to see a different world, meet different people and give my culture and knowledge to others,” he said. “In the past, I have volunteered to help teach children, and I would continue such volunteering in Taiwan.”