#AlumLoVVe: Celebrating Physics & Robotics High School Teacher Ben Nguyen
Teaching permeated much of my life. In reflecting on my childhood, I can think of many fond memories of the joys of teaching. As a young tinkerer, which has more recently evolved to maker, I created a myriad of electrical devices and household “experiments” with my childhood friends, teaching each other through our hundreds of mistakes. Now as an educator through Teach For America, and one that values the impact of project-based learning, I find myself encouraging and supporting this learning method across all of my educational endeavors, whether in a formal classroom or in volunteer activities across the state of Nevada.
During my last two years as a science teacher in physics and robotics at Sunrise Mountain High School here in Las Vegas, I witnessed the incredible impact of high-quality learning experiences on my students, especially in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). While it was challenging at first to establish the level of organization, resource, and focus necessary to sustain an active program in robotics and technology, I found myself inspired by my students who also showed up with me on a near-daily basis for after-school club and internship activities. From 3-D modeling to mobile robotics to virtual reality, my students have experimented in many areas in order to build their foundational knowledge in STEM and to build out their skill-sets so they can one day secure meaningful employment in those areas. We are surely having fun, meanwhile our projects can often be tedious, especially during our competition season for students in our after-school "Robo-Tech." I am still convinced that these efforts were worth the sacrifice – particularly when looking at the number of seniors that graduated and went on into colleges of engineering.
As a city, Las Vegas presents a number of issues regarding equitable access to effective learning experiences for students living in low-income backgrounds. One of the issues I focus on is the lack of job opportunities and internships for students in STEM career areas. It has been a goal of mine to integrate local businesses and organizations to provide resources and experiences for students all across the valley. Progress in these efforts has proven challenging in certain areas, but I am prepared to dedicate the leadership and resources necessary to see it through for all students across Nevada.
I have found a calling in my educational vision in conjunction with our mission in Teach For America. However, I believe that access is not enough. I have learned that quality learning experiences are not created based on the possibilities presented to schools and educational organizations. Effective instruction, engaging learning environments, and impact-driven learning experiences, for me, have been the key signs of the many successful educational programs I have witnessed all across the Las Vegas Valley. It is my hope and inspiration that upcoming generations of teacher-leaders will become energized to educate and inspire the future, skilled workforce of Nevada. Working together with our local community, "one day'"will be closer than ever here in Las Vegas."