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Hien Nguyen

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Hien Nguyen, a native of Stockton, California, is a teacher who loves the diversity of our community. This month she shares what she appreciates about the many opportunities for education, growth and learning about the many cultures of the greater Stockton area.

HLM: What do you love most about Stockton?
HN: I have lived here for 31 years. What I love most about Stockton is that we are one of the most racially diverse cities in the United States. Because of Stockton’s diversity, I’ve been exposed to and have been given the opportunity to develop a better understanding of different cultures, languages and foods. Our diversity has strengthened our city because it opens everyone’s minds and allows people to come together.

HLM: How is your heart inspired to serve the community?
HN: I went to Stockton Unified schools for elementary, middle and high school, then moved onto the University of the Pacific for my bachelor’s degree and Teachers College of San Joaquin for my teaching credential and master’s degree. When I began my teaching career, I knew that I wanted to serve Stockton youth. My goal is to give my students the best chance to succeed beyond high school, whether they choose to attend a four-year university, a vocational program or enter the workforce. I want my students to have problem-solving skills, know how to communicate effectively, have the grit to overcome obstacles, and be responsible, productive citizens in our community. Besides teaching eighth grade for the past five years, I recently expanded my reach by teaching English as a second language to adults in Stockton. When my parents emigrated to America 40 years ago, my mom was an ESL student, so it was an honor for me to pay it forward. These students would attend class at night after long days of work and caring for their families, which inspired me to perfect my pedagogy to ensure they receive worthwhile, high-quality education. Next month, I will start a new chapter in my career as a student activities director at a high school in Stockton. My role will be developing student leaders to organize school activities that contribute to a positive, welcoming and productive school culture. I am so excited to embrace the discomfort of change, because change is where growth occurs!

HLM: What sparks joy in your life?
HN: Hearing my nephew and nieces’ giggles. The loud sounds of my brothers and sisters-in-law arguing over whether an answer counts or not for a game of Family Feud or Charades. My dad smiling and rolling his eyes at us while we argue. Nothing brings me more joy than being with my family.

HLM: Top three goals on your bucket list?
HN: Go to a Superbowl game, visit every baseball stadium in America and enter some kind of eating contest, just for the heck of it. I’m definitely no Joey Chestnut, though!

HLM: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
HN: Being a supportive, loyal and dependable daughter, sister, aunt and friend. It is important to me that my loved ones know they can come to me for anything.

HLM: What event has had the greatest impact on your life?
HN: My mom was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in March 2014 at the young age of 54. My mom never smoked a day in her life and lived a healthy, active lifestyle. Her surprising diagnosis came almost a year after suffering symptoms that depleted her. The day my mom was diagnosed was the day I devoted myself to be her full-time caretaker and advocate. I was by her side through all of her doctor appointments, scans and chemo sessions. I held her when she was in pain after chemo. I fed, bathed and clothed her when she had no strength. I cried with her through the darkest moments. When she had good days, which did not come often, I focused on making beautiful memories with her. Unfortunately, my mom lost her cancer battle in 2017. When she passed, I didn’t think the sun would ever rise again. As much pain she was in, my mom wasn’t ready to leave her husband, her children and her grandchildren. That has caused this deep sense of restlessness and emptiness in my heart that prevents me from making peace with it. I’ve learned that grief comes in waves. There are days when her memory brings a smile to my face, but there are days when her memory makes me feel like I’m suffocating. As I try to navigate life without her, I try to focus on her legacy. My mom was loved and adored by many people because of her kindness and compassion for others, her sweet smile, her love for taking care of people, her easy-going nature and her quiet strength. I aim to live my life in a way that honors my mom’s legacy and would make her proud.

HLM: What’s your favorite quote?
HN: “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today” – Will Rogers. We cannot always control the ups and downs that life presents, but we can control how we react to it. Instead of letting challenges drain me mentally and emotionally for a long period of time, my goal is to live in the present more.

HLM: What do you do outside work?
HN: I spend time with my loved ones. I enjoy trying new restaurants with friends while we catch up on our busy lives. I love visiting my dad’s house to simply watch movies with him. My siblings and I get together weekly for overly competitive game nights. Lastly, I enjoy riding my bike, because it gives me time to clear my mind and get fresh air.

HLM: What are you reading today?
HN: I want to give a shout-out to Athena. She was in leadership class this past year and I often found her nose deep in a book titled It Ends with Us, by Colleen Hoover. So, I bought a copy and am currently reading it!

HLM: What’s your favorite food?
HN: I love the Lone Tiger Roll from M Sushi, the mango sticky rice and Pad See Ew from Siamese Street, grilled shrimp tacos from Mikey’s, ravioli from Pietro’s, ribs and pesto from Waterloo, rib sandwich from Fat City BBQ, a mangonada from El Frutal, the crack shrimp from Midgley’s, and Mongolian chicken chow mein from Dave Wong’s. Can you tell I love food?