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Continued: St. Paul educator on the move integrates Hmong-American experience into schools

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 9, 2014 - 11:45 PM

In her office, where she often must deal with discipline matters, there are signs, a poster here and placard there, declaring the district’s goal of erasing race-based inequities.

When not in the office, Vang is in classrooms, observing or meeting with teachers on professional development matters.

She had been content to stay at Phalen Lake for another year. But she looks forward to being at Mississippi Creative Arts, a smaller North End area school serving preschoolers to fifth-graders in which 52 percent of students are Asian. As a teacher in the district for 11 years, she had helped weave Hmong folk tales into a school’s curriculum. She has taught Hmong dance, too.

Gary Kwong, vice chairman of Hmong National Development Inc., a subsidiary of the Hmong American Partnership, said he was encouraged to see a Hmong leader at a school not focused on Hmong culture.

But for Hmong-American students, as they look for role models in their community, he said, he believes the district ought to elevate Hmong educators to principal positions at middle schools and high schools, too. This year, St. Paul had three Hmong principals, all at elementary schools.

“You need a critical mass at each level … [for people] to know the whole system can work for us,” Kwong said.

Said Chue Vue, the school board’s lone Hmong-American member, “I’m really excited and I believe she’ll do a great job. It’s a positive step for our Asian community. I will work to [lift numbers] not only at schools, but in higher leadership, too.”

In the corner of her office, Vang has boxes of books from her years as a teacher. Atop one stack sat “Teaching with Folk Stories of the Hmong.” Three years ago, when she first became an administrative intern, her husband suggested she get rid of them. But, she replied, what if she didn’t like administrative work?

Recently, she moved the boxes from home, and made the books available to teachers.

“No going back, right?” she said firmly, and with a smile.

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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  • Be Vang of Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet School, displayed a Hmong story cloth. Vang will be principal at Mississippi Creative Arts in the fall.

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