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Pang Yang named Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Pang Yang named Minnesota Teacher of the Year
Pang Yang

Pang Yang, a Hmong for Native Speakers teacher at Park Center Senior High, received the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award from the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures last weekend. This award recognizes Yang for the outstanding instruction, leadership and advocacy she has provided her district, community and profession.

Three years ago, Yang was a leader in creating the Hmong for Native Speakers program, which has grown to more than 300 participants at Park Center and Osseo senior high schools. Yang has spent nearly 20 years teaching English as a second language and saw an opportunity to infuse Hmong culture and language into a stand-alone course. By creating a classroom where Hmong culture is central to the learning, Yang makes the material more relevant to her students. Learn more about Yang and how to develop a culturally relevant classroom in this MPR news story.

“I am so humbled to receive this honor,” Pang Yang said. “This award recognizes the hard work and passion of my students who inspire me every single day.”

Yang received the award at the 2019 Minnesota Council on Teaching of Languages and Cultures conference on Oct. 26. After earning this honor, Yang is now eligible to participate in other national awards through the American Council of Teachers of Languages and Cultures.

Yang was instrumental in securing funding, inviting speakers, recruiting participants and organizing the National Hmong Language Teacher Coalition, which was part of the Minnesota Council on Teaching of Languages and Cultures conference. The National Hmong Language Teacher Coalition welcomed 35 educators from Minnesota, Wisconsin and California to learn and grow together in this professional development opportunity. Yang also led a session on how to motivate students and keep them engaged in their learning. Conference participants heard from numerous speakers who provided tips and support on teaching the sounds of Hmong, learning opportunities to dig deeper into Hmong (specifically learning about riddles and proverbs), and new learning on Hmong dialects. In the bottom left photo, educators from Fresno, California, stand outside of Park Center Senior High after a private tour with Pang Yang in her classroom on Oct. 27 where Yang shared resources, strategies and ideas for strong programming. 

The learning culminated in a final event where Hmong authors from across the country read their works to students, families and educators. In the bottom middle photo, author Ya Po Cha stands proudly with his books and shares his stories with the community. Representative Samantha Vang and Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott attended the event and spoke to the audience. This evening event was designed to embrace Hmong writers, help inspire young people to write and add their story to the growing library of works written in Hmong. Park Center Senior High student Rocky Lo is pictured in the bottom right photo on stage. Rocky was a contributing author to the "Dear My Teacher" book released in 2019.