In August 2008, the 11th grade of Sam Houston High School outside Texas, USA, had a new math teacher. In the classroom, the students are not noisily talking or playing. All are not interested in the appreance of a 23-year-old Vietnamese teacher in the classroom.
"Let's try out some of these additions" Van Tan Hoang Vy told in an interview via telephone with VnExpress. Looking at nearly 30 students, he noticed some of them were spread out their hands to calculate, some even took off their shoes and counting their toes.
By the end of the previous school year, only 33% of these students passed the Texas Standards Math test. 2008 was the first year Sam Houston High School reformed after six continuing years ranked "unacceptable" level by the State Board of Education. Van Tan Hoang Vy, a graduate student in mathematics at the prestigious Imperial College in the UK, is one of the young teachers to be recruited to help Sam Houston "change blood."
Van Tan Hoang Vy (wearing purple shirt) and his pupils at Sam Houston School, Houston, Texas, USA on the school-year ending day in 2010. On the wall, there is slogan: "Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world ".
He recalled that he took over 7 classes with nearly 200 students. Among them, "there is 11th grade students but mathematical knowledge just like students in 6-7 grade". "Immediately after the first week, all my curriculum written in the summer must be removed." He decided not to follow the lesson plan and adjust the time, volume and content of teaching according to the student capacity.
The way the young teacher did actually works. At the end of the shood year, 100% of the students passed the final exam, they were even took the highest mark in the school.
"At that time I taught them the knowledge of four years in a year," Vy looks back at the first challenge of career.
Overcome the 'curse' of math
"For those students, mathematics becomes a curse and obsession. They always think of failure".
The first thing he did was to help students " taste the sweet of success". He "divided" the knowledge to the fundamental level, turning a complex problem into many simple math problems. In the process of solving these problems, students gradually fill the gap of knowledge and gained confidence.
Students in math class with teacher Van Tan Hoang Vy. On the left wall is a board of "Students' Dreams" that imprints the dreams of all the students in the class.
"I do not teach them to memorize formulas mechanically, I teach my students how to think and solve problems, and I persist with them to build a solid foundation in preparation for complex math problems. more, " he shared.
Students in math class with teacher Van Tan Hoang Vy. On the left wall is a board of "Students' Dreams" that imprints the dreams of all the students in the class. Picture: NVCC.
"I have never met such a passionate teacher." Arredondo, now a nurse, wrote in a letter of thanks to his former teacher.
Teaching with love
"He does not judge or look at me as a weak person. He understands and helps me learn how to overcome pain in order to succeed," Cantu recalled.
Every year, on the first school year, he asked students to paste their dreams on a board. The dream will hang there throughout the school year so that they shall not forget whether it is a dream to become a doctor or to earn enough to support parents. Vy regularly went to wash the car together with his students on weekends, and then used the income to organize visits to the most prestigious universities, so that the students can experience the learning atmosphere and make the best effort for their dreams.
Opening schools for Vietnamese children in America
After four years at Sam Houston School, including three years as head of mathematics department, Van Tan Hoang decided to quit and focus on researching on pedagogical approach and how to build a syllabus. In 2014, Vy graduated from Stanford University with an excellent master's degree in education.
"As soon as I stepped into Stanford, I dreamed of opening a school to help the Vietnamese community in America.", he said.
According to him, the thought of Vietnamese parents from the past, whether living in Vietnam or in the United States, is always focusing on academic achievement so they put pressure on the children.
"This inadvertently makes them misunderstand the purpose of learning and losing interest in learning," he said. "For me, to change the minds of parents and make them understand the philosophy of education toward the long-term development of their children is the most difficult thing to do when starting a school.".
In addition, when researching on the growing and studying environment of Vietnamese families abroad, Vy noted that the language barrier and the complexities of the American curriculum make many parents impotent in following and helping their child.
In January 2016, Vy opened a school in Houston, Texas in a tutoring model after school for Vietnamese children living in the United States, from grade 1 to grade 12. He intended to replicate this model to San Francisco, California, where many Vietnamese live.