Teacher’s passion for education never stops
Published: May 22, 2007 | 6273rd good news item since 2003
The dry-erase board in Hue Tran’s classroom is filled with past tense verbs — ate, bought, cried — and her middle-school students are excited to make the list longer and longer.
They offered ‘‘drank,” ‘‘fried,” ‘‘taught” as answers to Tran’s challenge: How many past tense verbs can you think of?
‘‘It must be the end of the year, you’ve learned so much,” Tran told her students at Takoma Park Middle School on Monday morning. Her class that day is a Multidisciplinary Educational Training and Support (METS) reading class of students who have had ‘‘interrupted educations,” many due to recent immigrations.
The methods she uses there to prepare them to join the mainstream student population led her peers to nominate her for an award to honor her efforts.
Tran was presented with the 2006-2007 Outstanding English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Teacher Award Saturday, a title given each year by the county’s division of ESOL⁄bilingual programs.
‘‘I’ve never won anything before in my life,” Tran said, giving most of the credit to her mentor and friend Karen Shilling, a fellow ESOL teacher at the school.
Shilling, who nominated Tran and collected at least 15 letters from her students for the application, said Tran ‘‘never stops.” She even continues teaching her students outside the classroom as well, Shilling said. Tran makes sure they get on the right bus, have their forms filled out for field trips and makes herself available day and night for homework and personal help.
‘‘She’s an advocate for her kids,” Shilling said. ‘‘They really believe they can accomplish anything with her help. … They rise to the occasion, because of her.”
Her students agree.
‘‘She works really hard trying to teach us,” said seventh-grader Natasha Portolano, 13, a native of Ukraine.
‘‘When she explains something, and she knows we understand, she gets very happy. She’s a very lively person,” said seventh-grader Brenda Zavala, 13, who moved here from El Salvador.
Tran, who lives in Silver Spring with her husband and two children, has been at the middle school for five years. Before that, she worked as an ESOL teacher for 10 years in Philadelphia to meet a demand for teachers of predominantly Asian students. Tran herself came to the United States from Vietnam when she was 5 years old.
‘‘I came to teaching because of them,” Tran said of her students in Philadelphia.
Coming to Takoma Park was a challenge, she said, as she was expected to teach not only ESOL students, but students in the school’s METS program.
Tran is now the director of the METS program at Takoma Middle. Many of her students come from rural backgrounds, started schooling later in life than most at the school, or have been separated from their parents. Most come from African or Latin American countries.
Tran said while she only knows ‘‘survival Spanish,” English and her native Vietnamese, she manages to communicate with the classroom just fine.
‘‘These students, they really do need you,” she said. ‘‘If you have other things going on in your life, if there are problems at home and you don’t have everything on a silver plate, having a teacher to go to and a safe place to learn is really important. It really makes the difference.”
Karen Woodson, the county’s director of the division of ESOL⁄bilingual programs, said Tran was highly regarded among her peers, who knew of her commitment to children.
Principal Renay Johnson said she was even more impressed with Tran when she found out she was working to become a National Board Certified teacher. Tran said she recently submitted a portfolio to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards with extensive entries on her teaching style, the children’s needs and applying her theories to practice.
The process has taken Tran two years to complete, and she should find out in November whether she has received certification.
‘‘I really focused on what I did that makes the students feel comfortable. That’s most important, to learning a language better,” Tran said. ‘‘It’s all very rewarding. These students, they really do want to learn, and really want to please you.”
‘‘When you do well, she just goes up, up, up! I really do love this teacher.”