By Grace Patterson
As we welcome new and returning students to Albany High, we must also recognize many new faculty and staff additions. Coming from high schools across the state, each new teacher will add something special to the Albany High School community, and we can’t wait to get to know them in their own words. Over the next few weeks, we will feature interviews with all of these new faculty members, to learn about their past experiences and what they look forward to at AHS. Stay tuned!
For this first introduction, senior Grace Patterson interviewed new English 2 and World Problems teacher Phi Do-Lui.
Do-Lui: I was a stay at home mom and a substitute teacher for a little bit. When my son was born, I decided to stay home for a while, and one year turned into two or three. It was weird, right at the time I was thinking of returning, that was when they had all those massive lay-offs of the teachers, so nobody was hiring so I was like “oh, I guess I’ll take an extra year off.” Then it became easier to just stay home
GP: So you took a break in teaching, how long have you been a teacher?
Do-Lui: Well, I taught in West Oakland for three years before then, so this would be my fourth year, unless you want to count my student year, so four or five?
GP: Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Do-Lui: A lot of reasons. When I was really young, I loved learning. Just any subject, but my family didn’t want me to become a teacher, so I tried doing other things. I went into the nonprofit world, I managed a volunteer program and I worked with a bunch of agencies all connected with social issues, and every time we would study what was needed or how to resolve an issue, education kept on coming back as the central, or one of the central -- money and education. So when I moved from Florida to California, I had to look for a new job, and that was when...you know that whole what’s your color parachute thing? What do I really feel passionate about? It’s education, so yeah I switched careers, I went into education and worked for an an education lab. You know, it makes no sense to work in education without having been an educator, so I said “okay! Here we go, back to school,” and became a teacher.
GP: What are some difficulties of being a new teacher at Albany High?
Do-Lui: I think it’s the same as anywhere, you have to get used to and develop curriculum, you want to find that balance between what... between the expectations of what you need to teach them and how, where your student's are at. Every student is in a different place, and finding that spot where you can get them there, right? Because everyone is unique, and you’re trying to move them through *laughs* the same path basically, but actually maybe not a path, but a goal.
GP: How is Albany High School different than other schools you’ve gone to or taught at?
Do-Lui: *Laughs* So different!
GP: Oh yeah?
Do-Lui: So different! Alright, so just before Albany High School, I taught at Kipp, I don’t know if you’re familiar with them. They have a very regimented program, you know, school uniforms, there are slogans and sayings. They have this policy of no excuses, so they restrict and control and try to organize almost everything so that the student has no excuses for not turning in homework, or being distracted. And I think that it has proved very successful for the communities they want to serve, but it limits a teacher in terms of their creative ability in curriculum, and I think think it’s that principle of at what point do you allow them to take responsibility for themselves. You want it to just be the training wheels, you don't want to be their vehicle. But Albany High School starts with the assumption that students are responsible, respectful, and I love that culture. I like that we don’t start with the assumption that you don’t know what you’re doing.
GP: Is there something you love about Albany High, something you dislike about it, something that confuses you?
Do-Lui: Hmm, I love, again the environment, the staff have been so incredibly helpful, I don’t think I could have survived *laughs* staying without it. Is there something that I’m confused about? Well I know that there is still a lot that I haven’t figured out or don’t know of yet, because every now and then something will catch me by surprise, like I didn’t know that there was a dress policy for student wear! I’m still figuring out all of the games and activities, club rush today totally took me by surprise! It was a nice surprise.
GP: How does teaching upperclassmen differ from teaching underclassmen?
Do-Lui: They’re [upperclassmen] much calmer! *laughs* You’re much calmer, and it shows the progression students make. I joked with my seniors last year when I was subbing, I said “I’m so glad I have you, because when I look at the freshman, I keep you in mind and say that someday, they are going to get there,” and it’s just a matter of time, and practice, and experience. Not that the freshman aren’t wonderful in themselves, it’s just you can see how much they grow.
GP: What do you wish students knew about you?
Do-Lui: Oh my gosh, what don’t they know about me? Um, I don’t know if they know yet that I have a sense of humor, because *laughs* I’m generally still so anxious about everything right now. I’m hoping that when I relax, that will come out again.
GP: Anything else you want to say?
Do-Lui: Students have been surprising and delighting me since I’ve gotten here.