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First-year teacher Andy Kwok (right) helps 15-year-old Brandon Stewart finish his work June 13, the day after most EXCEL High School students began their summer vacation. (Jane Tyska/The Oakland Tribune)

My first year on the job has been such a roller coaster ride, but one I would never give up. I've gained so much experience in dealing with students, my colleagues, and of course, the media.

I'd have to say, it was traumatic having people follow me in the beginning of the year. Not only was I learning how to do my job and the idiosyncrasies of each of my students, but I had video and audio recording my every blunder. I remember originally being asked to be shadowed for the year and I thought it would be a neat experience. It sure was.

I remember asking the reporters to wait for a couple of weeks before they started videotaping the classroom. But they wanted to come the first day. They said that to truly see me grow as a first-year teacher, they had to see me on the first day on the job. It made sense, but it was something I wanted to by all means avoid. I couldn't.

I got students constantly asking, "Why are people always in here, videotaping and recording?" I'd always give the sly response of, "I don't know, ignore them," but eventually switched to, "I'm famous, don't you know?"

I'd also have to prove to my colleagues that I wasn't some "hot shot incomer" or "rock star," as some of them jokingly mocked me the first couple of weeks. But we've all taken it in stride.

EXCEL High School isn't short on media attention. From the championship basketball team to a school shooting to a constant stream of visitors, we all became used to being observed. Hopefully, people will learn from what we succeeded in or take note of various mistakes.


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I eventually got used to people coming and going through my classroom. I swear, for the first month, I had a different person in my room observing in the back, whether for this newspaper or for professional growth. But as I focused more on my students, I would put my ego aside. Mistakes I once thought would be the end of the world for adults to see, just gave me room for more growth.

It has been more than humorous hearing that people have heard of me or that the chemistry teacher (who coincidently is Asian as well) has been constantly asked if he was me. I hoped the sharing of my experience would be more than just entertainment, but a spark of enlightenment on what teachers, students, and schools go through, especially in Oakland and other urban areas.

I hoped enlightenment would go beyond just a thought, to action. That you, the readers, would provide a solid role model to the youth. That you would tutor the future generations. That you would check in with your children and bridge the gap of education between school and home. That you would donate your time, effort, experience and even finances and products to support priceless education (or EXCEL High School, which could always use a plug).

So I thank you for allowing me to share this time with you and for even reading these articles. I find it absolutely hilarious that anyone would take interest in my seemingly boring life, but you have. Thanks and God bless!