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Teacher Talks: Meet Khoa Tran

By Sammi Boas

Teacher Talks is a series introducing some of the inspirational teachers who have implemented Renota into their classrooms.

Meet Khoa! Khoa Tran student taught for a Chicago Public School ninth grade algebra class. After finishing their student teaching in March, I spoke to Khoa about what it means to be a teacher and how they got here.

Conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Why did you want to become a teacher?

I grew up in an under-resourced kind of community in suburban Houston, Texas, and not having much money, I would spend a lot of time at the library. That was like a second home for me. I was there almost every day after school for seven years plus probably. The library I would go to, they would have programs for the youth of different ages. And I thought what would be pretty nice to do would be a tutoring service that I would start as part of the library's activities. And so, I just wanted to start this program by teaching younger kids usually math related things. Asa high schooler, I didn't know too much but I knew some things. And as I got older, I brought in some other folks to help me with different subjects, and I was also expanding my own knowledge with things.

Another thing in high school was that I took Latin for four years. For state competition, when I became a third-year and a fourth-year, I became captain. I didn't think about it at the time, but I really enjoyed being their captain, teaching them strategies about how to approach this or what does this mean. I found that also to be very beneficial. And so, after college, in which I thought I was going to be a pharmacist, I realized education is something that I am actually passionate about. I did these things of my own volition and because I thought they were fun.

What makes a teacher exceptional?

I think the exceptional teacher gets to really know their students on an individual level at the very beginning of the year and builds those relationships throughout the year. From my student teaching and observation experience, that is the most important thing because establishing a relationship with your students in a way that's engaging and motivates them to learn, I don’t think there’s anything compared to that.​​Having student buy-in is critical for them as math learners and doers, but also just surviving the course. If they don't feel like someone's on their team, why would you try? I get that. And so, I think exceptional teachers really take that into consideration and work with that.

The exceptional teacher gets to really know their students on an individual level at the very beginning of the year and builds those relationships throughout the year.

Do you have any advice for incoming teachers?

It's a lot easier said than done but try your best to be confident in front of the students. I think the main thing is that they see you as an adult who is invested in their learning. Unless you do something that makes them lose that, they're trusting you. For the most part, they see you as an adult that is there to help. Really capitalizing on that is important to do in the classroom when you're first starting out because they already see you genuinely in a positive light, for the most part. You can be calm, you can be nervous going in, but the confidence that you have and that you share with them, I think it helps not only your psyche throughout the day, but really helps your students to feel like they know what they're doing.

For any teacher, the idea of being a warm demander is very helpful. Like being approachable so that students are willing and wanting to share things with you, whether personal or whether it's questions about content. But also set the expectations that you expect them to be challenged and to work hard, but also having them realize that you want to meet them where they're at as well.

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