Vietnamese teenager opens US school to connect compatriots

A Vietnamese master of education turned down offers from the corporate sector before starting his own school in the U.S.

Van Tan Hoang Vy (L, 3rd) and his Van Houston teachers. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Van Tan Hoang Vy has been running the ‘Van Houston’ school in Houston, Texas, in the United States, since January 2016, with the aim of strengthening bonds in the Vietnamese community.

“A lot of Vietnamese parents here do not speak English and cannot explain the U.S. education system to their children,” Vy said.

“Van Houston helps solve that problem while narrowing language and cultural differences between the generations.”

In addition to classes, the school also hosts conferences to give advice to Vietnamese parents.

Vy said that the focus of the school was not just to help students get high grades in the shortest amount of time.

“We want our students to love learning and use education as a tool to help them follow their passions and nurture their talents.

“We aim to inspire our students through courses we’ve designed ourselves. Instead of the traditional way of learning, we’ve designed games and extracurricular activities to accompany every lesson.

“There have been times when we’ve written music for math lessons, for example, to make the subject more interesting. We also regularly assign group projects so that students can put their knowledge into practice.”

According to Vy, Van Houston has about 20 teachers and 300 students, and offers classes outside of normal school hours.

“We teach students from first grade right up to twelfth grade. Our main subjects include math, reading and writing, SAT revision, natural and social sciences, and all of them are taught in English,” he said.

Vy majored in mathematics in high school, but ultimately attained a master of education.

“I was once a teaching assistant for a professor in England. Seeing the development of students motivated me to become a teacher,” Vy said.

“I applied to the master’s program at Stanford University in 2012. Two years at Stanford taught me a lot about educational philosophy, lesson preparation and how to inspire children,” he explained.

“I had the opportunity to learn from many educationists in the U.S.

“After graduating from Stanford, I began working at a private school established by another Stanford graduate, where I learned how to open and organize a school, and how to recruit and train teachers.”

When asked whether he had any plans for a similar project in Vietnam, Vy admitted that had been his dream for a long time.

“However, Van Houston is still new and there are many things to be taken care of. Once everything is stable, I will roll out a similar project in Vietnam,” he said.

Vy expressed his hope to begin in his hometown of Nha Trang, a coastal resort city in the south-central Vietnamese province of Khanh Hoa, and said that he would focus on areas where children faced difficulty.

He earned a full scholarship in England while he was in grade ten at Le Quy Don High School for the Gifted in Khanh Hoa.

He then graduated as one of the top three students from the mathematics department of Imperial College London, before pursuing his teaching career in Houston.

Not only was he voted teacher of the year at Sam Houston High School, Vy also became the youngest head of the mathematics department and was profiled in a reputable education magazine in Houston.

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