Young teacher fuels interest in learning English among ethnic students

Monday, 2020-09-14 09:35:00
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Ha Anh Phuong (middle) teaches English to an ethnic girl (Photo: NDO/Bao Ngan)
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NDO – Through online apps such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Skype, Ha Anh Phuong, a teacher at the Huong Can High School in Phu Tho province, has helped her students join lessons with teachers and students across the world. Phuong was honoured by the Varkey Foundation as one of the "Top 50 excellent teachers worldwide".

From a dream of an ethnic Muong girl

Born in 1991 in a mountainous district of Phu Tho province, Ha Anh Phuong dreamt of becoming a teacher since she was a little girl. At the age of 11, the Muong ethnic girl left her family to study at a boarding secondary school in the district, then continued living far from her hometown when she went to Hanoi for higher studies.

Graduating from Hanoi University with a distinction degree, Phuong rejected offers of well-paid jobs to continue studying for a Master of TESOL. After getting her master’s degree in English, Phuong decided to return to her hometown to turn her childhood dream into a reality.

Phuong’s former teacher, Phung Thi Hoang Yen, who is an officer at the Phu Tho provincial Department of Education and Training, recalled that when Phuong told her about the decision, she assumed that her student would work in the city centre rather than Huong Can commune, a remote commune where more than 90% of the students are from ethnic minorities.

Since she started working at Huong Can High School in Huong Can commune, Thanh Son district, Phuong has made many proposals to renovate the way of teaching and learning English at the school. She hoped that her students, many of whom haven’t gone out of their local area, can speak English confidently with teachers and friends worldwide.

“At my first class at the school, I helped my students connect with a Brazilian teacher,” Phuong recalled, adding that after saying “Hello”, her students passed the talk to each other and all fell silent.

The sour failure of the beginning motivated Phuong to be more patient and find ways to inspire her students. By participating in teachers’ forums, Phuong came up with an idea of creating a cross-border class, which allows her students to see her friends from the US, India and countries worldwide online, thus making them more excited to practice English.

While preparing teaching materials, Phuong hopes to conduct her classes as a venue for her students to introduce traditional culture and share their views on interesting topics such as music, sports and cuisine.

Thanks to her dedication and effort, English is no longer a phobia of students but the most anticipated and appealing subject for ethnic students at the school.

Dinh Thi Thuy Huong, an eleventh grader at Huong Can school said that she used to be too shy to speak English, but by attending Phuong’s classes, she is now fuelled with enough confidence to communicate with friends around the world.

To the "Top 50 excellent teachers worldwide"

Phuong’s online cross-border class connects her students with their peers worldwide (Photo: Vietnam Pictorial)

Phuong’s cross-border classes have renovated the method of teaching and studying English in the midland province of Phu Tho. The model of cross-border class has been widely duplicated and implemented in many other educational facilities in the province.

Phung Quoc Lap, Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Education and Training hailed that Phuong has inspired an interest in learning English at a school where up to 80% of the students are from ethnic minorities.

Phuong’s dedication has helped her become the only Vietnamese representative to be honoured by the Varkey Foundation as one of their "Top 50 excellent teachers worldwide". The Global Teacher Prize is presented annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession across the globe.

The Varkey Foundation established the prize in 2014, to recognise and celebrate the impact that teachers have around the world – not only on their students, but on the communities around them.

Previously in early 2020, Phuong received a full scholarship from the Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Programme (SEAYLP) and was recognised as a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert.

Sharing about her ultimate goal at work, Phuong quoted a saying that “A teacher is someone who never stops learning”, describing it as a motto to work harder to support her students, who have less educational opportunities than their friends in big cities, to be well-equipped to become global citizens in the future.

Ha Anh Phuong (third from left) and her students at Huong Can High School (Photo: Vietnam Pictorial)