Hoang Pham, an alumnus of the LMU/Teach For America Los Angeles Partnership program, was recognized over the summer with Teach For America’s Sue Lehmann Award, one of only four teachers to receive the award nationally. Pham was chosen from 23 semi-finalists and 117 regional nominees.
“Receiving this award is such an honor because it gives me the opportunity to share the powerful stories of my students, school and families I work with,” says Pham, who earned his master’s degree in urban education and California teaching credential from LMU in 2013 through the LMU/TFA Partnership. “My students are so incredible and this really reflects what’s possible when we all work together in their best interest. It’s much more about their success than it is about mine.”
As Pham talks to other TFA corps members and alumni around the country, he realizes how lucky he was to have been a part of the LMU/TFA Partnership. “Very few TFA regions have an incredible university partner like LMU,” says Pham. “The level of personal support and quality of the professors – professors who understand what’s it like to teach all day in urban schools and then come to class in the evenings – has really helped me succeed in my first few years. They know the issues we’re facing everyday and work with us toward real world solutions for our kids.”
Pham teaches first grade at KIPP Empower Academy in South Central Los Angeles, a school where the majority of students are African American and are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program. His school recently scored 991 on the California Academic Performance Index – with 95% of their students scoring proficient or advanced in English Language Arts and Math, and the largest percentage scoring advanced. Pham says the key to engaging his students is always to make sure they are aware of the purpose behind what they’re learning. Whether it’s reading, writing or math, Pham makes it culturally relevant to their lives.
“It’s so important for kids to see themselves in what they’re learning,” says Pham. “By connecting school to their experiences I aim to empower my students and families to create social change that extends well beyond the one year they have in the classroom with me. They can push further down that path for a better future than I could ever imagine.”
Most recently Pham was recognized by KIPP with their National Harriet Ball Excellence in Teaching Award, where he was one of 10 awardees out of the more than 125 teachers nominated nationally.
Reflecting on both awards, Pham says, “These mean so much because I can now connect and help other teachers around the country improve their practice. For those teachers who may be struggling or looking for answers, I encourage them to reach out to me. I truly believe it’s possible for all of us to become better and help our kids achieve a more socially just world.”