What careers did you have in mind before becoming a teacher? Initially I was thinking about going to grad school and getting my PhD in history. I was looking into many different things when I was in college. I was thinking about law school or thinking about getting into accounting or [fields] where there are a lot of jobs out there.
Tell me about the student body at Valley. Compared to my old high school—we had about a thousand students for each class. You don’t necessarily know everyone there. [Valley] was nice compared to that. It is really family oriented and everyone knows each other.
In your experience, what is the best way to connect with teenagers? Something that I always tried to do was that I tried to understand them and try to get on their side and [see] the student perspective. My family came to this country when I was in high school. It was always a really interesting process to learn from other people because it is not my own culture and not my native language. I was always learning something new, and that’s been my number one strategy to [get to] know other people and try to understand things from their perspective.
How was the transition from South Korea to America? It was really different. When I was moving over here, everyone told me that it was going to be different culture. I understood that, but when you actually move to a different country, that is the moment when you really get to understand [the change]. It is easy to say that I understand another culture but it’s not really easy to adapt to a new culture [and] a new language.
What do you like about teaching? I get to meet a lot of people. I am not really an outgoing person that goes out to [try to] make different friends, but as a teacher you get to meet a lot of different people. Each year I have about 160-170 students, and that’s 160-170 new people that I get to meet. My favorite part about being a teacher is getting to meet and getting to know other people and learn from them.
When you’re not teaching, what interests do you have in your spare time? Now, since I am a dad, most of my time is devoted to taking care of my kid, and my wife is a teacher too. So both of us will be gone during the school day. When I come back home, we have to do a lot of house work and spend a lot of time to take care of our kid.
What’s your favorite movie? I watch a lot of movies. It keeps changing. I guess the one movie I am still thinking about a lot is Interstellar. That movie kept making me think about many different things, whether there would be other people out there.
photo / Tyler Valentine