The late-morning math class ended and teacher Nguyen Vu pulled black fingerless gloves onto his hands to grip the gray treads of his wheelchair.
Almost a year after the October car accident that left Vu paralyzed from the waist down, the part-time Mission College instructor from Van Nuys is back on campus amid young men and women who pepper him daily with questions about trigonometry.
After he dismissed his students Thursday, the 29-year-old teacher rolled out the door of room 1017 in the Instructional Center toward a 1:30 p.m. meeting followed by math tutorial sessions scheduled to last until the sun started to sink.
"In a way I wasn't sure if I could handle this job," said Vu, who returned to campus during the summer session. "At least it gives me something to do. . . . That's what I want to focus on, what I'm doing right now."
But there is something else for Vu to consider as well.
The same colleagues who gave donations to purchase a wheelchair for him last winter now hope they can buy him a car to drive.
Maria Fenyes, chairwoman of the math cluster at the college, has organized a fund for contributions. She described Vu's part-time salary as "modest" and said she recognized he might have difficulty buying medical supplies.
As it is, Monday through Thursday Vu rides to and from the Eldridge Avenue campus aboard a shuttle van equipped with ramps.
"It's not always on time," he said. "It's embarrassing when I tell my students 'Don't come to class late,' when I show up late.
"The future's hard for me to predict right now," Vu said. "I'm still adjusting to my new condition. There's a lot of things that I'm fighting just to stay alive."
For more information about the vehicle fund, call (818) 364-7795.