Student Nomination Story

Ms. Ha continually goes beyond for her students: being available after school if they need additional support, giving up her Saturdays for them to make up assignments, and being available via technology to provide constructive feedback on their essays. She also takes on the role of an academy coordinator because she believes it is important to foster a small learning community that values family, multiculturalism, and critical reading/writing skills. Every year, she plans a minimum of four field trips to allow her first-generation students to visit four-year universities. She annually leads an orientation for her 9th and 10th grade students’ parents to teach them how to support their child better. At every Back to School Night, she has the longest parent line out of all the teachers, many who have entrusted younger siblings of former students to be taught by her. She contacts several non-profit organizations to work directly with her students to complete community service hours. Her class has a school-wide reputation for being more rigorous than the average. Her class becomes increasingly difficult as the school year advances and the topics become more complex. We were introduced to conformity, stereotype threat, imposter syndrome, and logical fallacy. She pushes our reading and writing skills beyond our limits in order to see real improvement. We spent a month creating our electronic portfolio, which contains all of the essays that we wrote throughout the year. Many students remark how much they have grown when they compare their first and last essays, and the growth is more obvious when we compare our 9th grade essays to our 10th grade ones (here is the link to mine: I wasn’t an all-star student in her class and I didn’t always enjoy every assignment, but I found myself more engaged in her work than in any other class because of the quality of education that she offered. Ms. Ha graduated from the high school that she is now teaching at, so she knows to give respect before expecting it from her students. She checks in with them at the door and speaks to them with compassion. She challenges them every day in class, even though our school has a “ghetto” reputation. She supports us through these challenges by meeting us half-way in the learning process by giving us specific models and constructive feedback. She always holds us accountable to her high standards and make us responsible for our own learning. For example, I had a classmate who was so negative, always complaining about every assignment, and always challenging Ms. Ha’s authority. Instead of giving up on her, I saw Ms. Ha not surrender to the negativity, encourage her to have a positive and growth mindset, and privately motivated her to be better. Two years later, this student has remarked how Ms. Ha is the best and how she misses her. Ms. Ha stands out compared to many teachers because I have not met someone so dedicated in her work as much as she is. All she wants from her students is effort; from there, she can do anything. A quote that would perfectly describe her is “I won’t change the world, but I will leave and make my mark on it.” She wants to educate the country’s future to ensure that it is less corrupt than it is today. An example is when she taught my class about logical fallacies during the Julius Caesar unit, which we applied to real politicians' speeches (like Barack Obama, which she chose because she said that we have to question authority, even if we like him). Without teachers like Ms. Ha, public education would collapse and be at a loss to find a way to make it up. It is remarkable how she is able to teach us despite how broken the education system is.

Brian Hernandez

To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.