Redmond resident Quyen Thai, a substitute elementary teacher in the Lake Washington School District, is featured in the recently published book “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales.” The book includes “101 Inspirational Stories from Great Teachers and Appreciative Students.”
Thai’s story, called “Teaching from Courage,” was inspired by an incident that happened to her three years ago, when she was a novice teacher in Australia, trying to establish her authority in the classroom.
“A mother had six children, was working and trying to support them and their education,” said Thai.
One morning when that mom was volunteering in the classroom, she lingered to help her daughter with a spelling assignment. All the other children had moved on to another activity.
Thai got a frosty response when she told the mom that the child had to get up and go. The woman left in a huff and Thai felt embarrassed.
“I was a new teacher trying to make the day go smoothly,” Thai explained. “It didn’t work out well that morning. That afternoon when I spoke to her, I was able to stop thinking about my problems and see it from her point of view.”
Thai said that encounter taught her an important lesson: stop being so rigid about following rules and be more open to people’s feelings and needs.
Because she works as a substitute teacher — while hoping to find a full-time teaching position — Thai said she has often reached out to other teachers for support.
“Subs have to work a little harder to make connections. Sometimes you feel like a stranger,” said Thai.
To break the ice when meeting new kids, “I introduce myself and my expectations,” she said, “but I also come in with an attitude that I’m here to get to know them even if it’s for just one day. A lot of schools do ask me to come back a lot because of that attitude. … I’ve been at Carl Sandburg (Elementary School in Kirkland) a lot lately. It feels great to be part of a school.”
She said the best part of teaching is “being able to sit with an individual student, especially with a subject they find difficult and help them gain confidence. Or help them with social problems, such as trouble making friends, to help them make that day better. Seeing the difference it makes, straight away, is very gratifying.”
Thai added, “Teaching has taught me so much patience. You have to understand more than what the child is doing, but why. If a child is talking in class, the child may be bored, not trying to upset you.”
When she’s not teaching, Thai enjoys a writing group that she formed with some friends. She’s working on a novel about a Vietnamese immigrant, inspired by her mother’s life story.
Her move to Redmond was sparked by her husband’s job at Microsoft. She said her favorite attractions are “lots of trails in the region, lots of outdoor soccer and running and walking events. There’s so much to do in Redmond.”
Her advice to aspiring young writers is to “keep writing and find a trusted adult mentor.”