Teacher to connect cultures

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New position at Wheaton to serve growing Hmong population

By Lindsay Reed

Wheaton Elementary School's new English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor hopes to bridge a language gap between the district's faculty and Hmong parents.

"I hope that I can close the language gap between the school and bilingual parents," said May Yang, Wheaton's new ESL instructor. "Being able to speak Hmong and work with a school district that has more Hmong students, I can try to limit as much misunderstanding as possible."

Over the last three years, the number of Hmong students attending the Wheaton School District has increased from less than 1 percent to nearly 18 percent district wide. Today, one-quarter of the students attending Wheaton High School are Hmong.

"I hope to be able to provide Hmong parents with more information about their child's progress," said Yang. "For the children, I hope to provide an opportunity to achieve higher academic achievements."

Although Yang was born in Thailand, she has lived in the United States since she was three months old. Yang moved from Dallas, Texas, to southwest Missouri in June.

"My parents moved here four years ago," said Yang. "I have been going back and forth for the last two years. My family and extended family all moved here from Wisconsin and Minnesota."

Yang has a bachelor of science degree in information resources from the University of Wisconsin. She also has a masters degree in library science from Texas Women's University.

"After getting my graduate degree I went to Richland Community College in Dallas to get certified to teach ESL," said Yang. "While teaching at Wheaton, I will be taking some courses at Missouri State University and Missouri Southern State University to become certified to teach high school English."

Yang would also like to be certified by Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc., (TESOL), a global education association.

Prior to accepting the position at Wheaton Elementary School, Yang was employed by WorkSource in Dallas County, Texas, for three years. In her previous position, Yang worked on a medical grant that was designed to recruit individuals interested in entering the medical field.

"I've always loved working with children. During my college graduate internship, I worked with children in the public library," said Yang. "Just being around kids, reading them a book or helping out with their homework, makes my heart melt."

In addition to hiring Yang, the district has implemented culture programs that allow Hmong students to celebrate their heritage and teach other students about Hmong food and customs.

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