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Disney Honors Long Beach Teacher

November 18, 1994|EMELYN CRUZ LAT

Huong Tran Nguyen, who arrived in the United States as a student at the height of the Vietnam War, remembers a college instructor's admonition at the time that Nguyen would never measure up to her white peers as a teacher.

On Wednesday, Nguyen, a Long Beach high school teacher, was named outstanding teacher of 1994 by the Walt Disney Co. She accepted the award Wednesday night during ceremonies in Washington, D.C.

Nguyen, 41, said the college instructor's disparaging remarks served as the primary motivation for her to pursue teaching.

"It was precisely this remark that drove me to pursue a teaching career and to be the best I can be for my students," Nguyen wrote in her application for the award.

"I was determined to prove to her and to myself that there was not a goal I could not reach if I put my mind to the task. This is the message that has led me to want to make my students believe they, too, can experience success in the 'real' world."

An instructor at Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, Nguyen works with students who have limited English skills. She was one of 12 teachers nationwide honored for their "teaching skills, rapport with students and ability to inspire."

A Westminster resident, Nguyen has been teaching in the Long Beach Unified School District for 11 years. She serves as a role model for students, particularly non-English speaking students, as well as faculty members at Poly High, where she established and now heads the school's language program for students with limited English skills.

"She's very resourceful in engaging students in learning," said Dick van der Laan, school district spokesman. "I think something she instills in the students is that no matter what the obstacles are you can make something of your life."

Before coming to Long Beach, Nguyen spent five years in the San Diego area, teaching elementary and high school students. She also taught reading to older students for the San Diego Job Corps.

Ed Cabil, of John Muir Junior High School in Los Angeles, was one of the 36 finalists for the award.

Nguyen and her high school each will receive an honorarium of $25,000. The Long Beach school district will receive $10,000.

The fifth annual American Teacher Awards ceremony was aired live Wednesday evening and will be aired again Dec. 2 on the Disney Channel.

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