Ms. Ngoc Tran is one of our most experienced faculty members. She joined the CDS family in 2000 and has been with us ever since, serving as a teacher in the Preschool Leaping Lizards classroom. She came to America as an adult after spending her early years in Vietnam and China, and we’d like to share her story of immigration and life in a new country.
Ms. Ngoc was born in Vietnam, but, like many ethnically Chinese people, she faced systemic discrimination and left the country in the late 1970s. After arriving in China by train, she lived in a refugee camp in a rural area, having to work on a small farm in an environment which she describes as like a jail. Rice farming was the hardest job she’d ever experienced, especially because she had been born and raised in the very different world of a big city. In 1984, she relocated to the United States to join her parents, who had recently immigrated there.
When Ms. Ngoc arrived in the U.S., she began by working twelve-hour days in a restaurant, and later worked in a sewing factory and a jewelry store while also attending night school classes to improve her command of the English language. She has always been interested in education, and she began volunteering at the Head Start program in 1992 when her daughter was enrolled there. With an AA degree in Childhood Development (which she obtained while also working full-time and taking care of her family) as well as the ability to speak Mandarin, Cantonese, and Vietnamese, she was the perfect fit to work in a multicultural school environment. She was employed full-time at Head Start within a few years.
In 2000, one of Ms. Ngoc’s colleagues recommended her to CDS. After getting an impression of our school’s culture, she said to herself, “This is a good program, this is what I’m looking for; I’m going to make it happen,” and decided to take the job. She’s been with us ever since. In our end-of-year evaluations, where we ask our teachers what they think they’ll be doing five years from now, she says every time that she’ll be working at CDS for the rest of her career.
During the 2016 winter holidays, Ms. Ngoc returned to Vietnam for the first time in nearly forty years. She found that the country had changed in many ways, but that it continued to struggle with significant problems, including class inequality and the unavailability of public education. “We always have to remember what we have here,” she says, feeling that the United States offers a much greater chance at success. “When I came here, I had so many opportunities. No matter how difficult the language barrier, the job, or my family situation, I made it happen, and I feel so fortunate.”
Ms. Ngoc enjoys sharing aspects of Chinese culture with her students, and she feels that her teaching career has instilled her with a lot of knowledge about the importance of multiculturalism and equality. At all of her family gatherings, she reminds her relatives of a principle that is important for everyone to remember: “This is a country with so many opportunities. Some of us take it for granted, but we should never do that. There should be an opportunity for all of us.”