Everest Public High School
Redwood City, California
The son of political refugees, Hai immigrated with his parents to the United States from Vietnam. Unknowingly, his belief in education took root in fifth grade. At a time when he could barely string together a complete paragraph in English, his teacher challenged him to write a short story. Hai credits this teacher’s belief in him for changing the course of his academic trajectory, which eventually included an acceptance to Harvard and a master’s degree in education from Stanford.
Hai is pursuing the teaching profession because he “ardently believes that all children deserve a teacher who believes in them.” As a first-generation college graduate, he is passionate about working with underserved youth and increasing their access to higher education. While studying math at UC Berkeley on a Bill & Melinda Gates Scholarship, Hai participated in several programs that fueled his enthusiasm for teaching, including AmeriCorps and Breakthrough.
At Breakthrough, a national non-profit aimed at preparing underserved youth for college, Hai had a memorable experience. On his first day of teaching, a student confessed that she had always struggled with math. Committed to debunking her perception of math ability as innate, he worked with her on homework every night via telephone. This student succeeded and more profoundly began to redefine herself as mathematically capable. As one of his favorite moments, this story highlights the fact that “success in math is not about genes but about possessing grit and a growth mindset.” He is excited to empower students with the mathematical tools to think clearly about the world and become change agents in their communities.
He perceives the KSTF Fellowship as his professional journey to becoming the teacher that his students demand and deserve. To Hai, the most challenging part of being a teacher is serving every single student in the classroom; “it is putting into everyday practice the unyielding belief that all students can excel if given diverse opportunities to succeed.”