A memo to Huong Tran Nguyen's college instructor: Your foolish, racist remark has been proved wrong decisively. However, your words have proved to be one heck of a motivator.
Nguyen arrived in the United States as a student while the Vietnam War was raging. She says a college instructor told her she would never be as good a teacher as the white aspirants.
That remark spurred her to prove to the instructor and to prove "to myself that there was not a goal I could not reach if I put my mind to the task," Nguyen said.
So over the years Nguyen taught elementary and high school in San Diego, as well as teaching reading to older students for the San Diego Job Corps.
She moved to Westminster, home to many of Orange County's Vietnamese Americans, and taught in Long Beach, where she established Polytechnic High School's language program for students with limited language skills.
Last week Nguyen received deserved recognition, with the Walt Disney Co. honoring her and 12 other teachers across the nation for their "teaching skills, rapport with students and ability to inspire." Nguyen and her high school each received $25,000, and the Long Beach Unified School District received $10,000.
The awards were a reminder that we are fortunate to have such teachers to inspire us with dedication and determination. As teachers are asked to do more important things for our society with fewer resources, society owes them a profound debt of gratitude.