|UST Graduate Student Gets Ahead with Masterís in Educational Leadership|
When opportunities for leadership arise, Kim-Thoa Nguyen is the first to raise her hand. Driven by an effervescent energy and passion for learning and teaching, this University of St. Thomas School of Education graduate student is on an unprecedented fast-track to obtain a Master of Education degree in educational leadership.
After graduating from UST in May of 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education, Nguyen didn’t waste any time, and immediately enrolled in master’s classes for the summer term. Education graduates typically spend a couple years gaining fulltime classroom teaching experience before pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership and a principal’s certificate. The degree can take two to six years to complete, but Nguyen plans to complete the process in only a year and a half.
“I know once I start teaching I want to focus all of my attention on my class,” Nguyen said. “I don’t want to be in school and teaching at the same time because I want to offer my students all of myself. When I made the decision to go straight into the master’s program, I knew it was going to be hard, but I knew I could make it because the professors in the UST School of Education were going to help me and guide me through it.”
Moving to the United States from Vietnam at the age of six, enrolled in an elementary English as a Second Language (ESL) program Nguyen because she did not speak English. From there she flourished, graduating at the top of her class at Jersey Village High School. Inspired by her mother’s profession as a teacher and principal in Vietnam, and the profound influence of her ESL teachers, Nguyen developed a deep desire to become an educator.
“My elementary teachers helped me reach my fullest potential, and I wish to show them how much they have influenced and shaped me. Someday, I hope to do the same for my students.”
Her positive experiences with ESL also motivated her to teach adult ESL classes every Saturday over the last four years for UST’s Literacy Initiative For Today (LIFT). In the spring of 2010, Nguyen plans to take a semester to reconnect with her extended family and teach English in Vietnam. She also plans to experience the Vietnamese educational system as she learns to read and write in Vietnamese at the Vietnam National University in Saigon.
As an UST undergraduate, Nguyen was known as a leader on campus. In 2007, she was selected as one of 25 college juniors from 16 participating universities to receive the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Fellowship for Aspiring Teachers of Color. Each fellow receives up to $22,100 over a five-year period that ends after the completion of three years of public school teaching. As a freshman, she earned the Emerging Leader Award. She was also awarded the Houston Endowment Scholarship, the UST Presidential Scholarship and an American Volunteer Scholarship. She served as a Presidential Ambassador, vice president of Kappa Delta Pi, the international education honor society, vice president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the College Buddy director of Best Buddies International, president of the Residence Council, senator of the Student Government Association.
“Leadership has always been a part of me,” Nguyen said. “Dr. Regina Boulware-Gooden, assistant professor of education, once called me into her office and said, ‘I see your leadership potential. I want you to take on the position of vice president of Kappa Delta Pi.’ Ever since I started joining organizations on campus, I always strive to become a leader within that organization. I love to initiate change, rather than just following change.”
Despite her delayed entry into leading a classroom fulltime, Nguyen is confident that she will be more than prepared. In addition to working with ESL students, she said she has gained experience in a variety of educational settings through various student teaching and volunteer positions including private, public and Montessori schools, and specialized instruction in dual language and education for students with learning disabilities.
“The classes in the UST School of Education are rigorous enough to challenge us academically and teach us how to become effective teachers,” Nguyen said. “I feel like I would be ready for the classroom even if I had not done my graduate studies.
“The UST professors really help you reach your full potential. When it comes to potential, it’s not just about academics. There are so many opportunities for us to gain hands-on experience because the UST School of Education wants to help us broaden our horizons, to let us know what is out there so we can make an educated decision about what we want to do.”