Author Archives: keithdinh

Rainier’s community says hard goodbyes to its Dean of Instruction and Culture

By Keith Dinh


Rainier’s community, over the last year, has made many lasting memories with its Dean of Instruction and Culture, Aileen George. While her decision to leave was a hard one to make, there are many students and faculty in the community who will greatly miss her, as she has made a lasting impact on them.

On Friday, April 19, Rainier Dean of Instruction and Culture Aileen George gave a public announcement that she will be stepping down from her role as dean come the next school year.

Rainier students, especially female students, have expressed their feelings about Ms. George’s departure; her role made a difference in the community and for the school, and she served as a voice for all students. Her absence this upcoming school year means that there could be less female representation in the administration; if another female administrator is not hired, female students will likely feel the loss.

Isela Mosqueira, a Rainier Spanish teacher, spoke of her favorite memories with Ms. George from the past year and gave a heartwarming goodbye as she said, “My favorite memory is at our staff retreat; Ms. George brought a karaoke machine, and we had the most fun ever doing karaoke and hanging out that it just wasn’t on school campus. That’s probably one of my favorite, most fun memories with Ms. George … [To Ms. George] You have made Rainier a better and brighter place, and we’re going to miss you a lot, but I’m also so excited and so happy for you in your next adventures, and I love you!”

See below for more on the Rainier’s community’s perspective on Ms. George’s tenure:

Rainier bids farewell to its principal after five years under his leadership

By Keith Dinh


For the last eight years of Rainier’s history, Executive Director Jesse Roe has been there every step of the way. Starting his career in 2006, Mr. Roe taught in NYC for five years before moving to California to teach at Summit Tahoma. During this time, Tahoma and Rainier shared a campus, which is where Mr. Roe taught as a mathematics teacher for two years. After those two years, Mr. Roe joined the Summit Academics team and was then offered the position of Executive Director of Rainier in his second year on the Summit Academics team. As one of Rainier’s longest-serving staff members, Mr. Roe has made many relationships with other faculty members, and his personality, in how he is always calm in all situations, is what many in the community remember him most for.

On Friday, April 19, Rainier Executive Director Jesse Roe gave a public announcement that he will be stepping down from his role as principal come the next school year.

In the following weeks, members of the Rainier community have expressed their mixed emotions on Mr. Roe’s departure. Both students and staff members continued about their days without much change, yet many of them still do not know what to make of Mr. Roe’s decision to leave Rainier. Through many of their words, the impact that Mr. Roe has had on Rainier’s community is very clear, and his absence in the next year will be a foreign feeling to members of the community.

Edward Lin, the Chemistry teacher at Rainier, expressed his gratitude toward Mr. Roe when he said, “Oh, so many things … I started literally the same year he became the director, so this is both of our fifth year as teacher and director, so … yeah … I just want to thank him for the last five years of not just obviously hiring me, but also to, kind of, the guidance and mentorship that he’s provided over the years.”

Correction: June 14, 2019

An earlier version of this article misstated that Mr. Roe has served Rainier’s community for the past seven years, where he has actually been a part of the Summit community for eight years. Mr. Roe also started his career as a teacher in NYC for two years (not with Summit Public Schools) and moved to California join the Summit team at Tahoma. Mr. Roe then taught mathematics for two years, took part in the Summit Academics team for another two years, and was then offered the position of Executive Director of Rainier.

See below for more on the Rainier’s community’s perspective on Mr. Roe’s tenure:

Rainier English teachers express the importance of English literature

By Keith Dinh

Rainier Editor-in-Chief

Every day, people speak it; it is read; it is lived. Every day, people around the world live the English language and read its literary works of the present and past. Even today, everyone reads books, stories and even poetry of writers who existed in the time of the Renaissance and writers who are still writing today.

English literature is everywhere, and it is influencing the lives of the current and next generation of writers, as well as the general public. Though there are so many great works of art, English literary writers at Rainier believe that many people are passive readers who might miss key details that make different texts meaningful.

Sunli Kim, the freshman English teacher at Summit Public School: Rainier, tells of her thoughts on the influence of English literature on society today. She tells of the importance of critical analysis and urges others to pay more attention to details in what people read, not just read passively.

I think people think that reading just automatically happens because we speak the language, right? We talk it; we say it every day. I would argue that reading and writing is a practice that requires a lot of work, a lot of critical thinking and practice. It’s not something that just naturally comes to you. You have to work hard at it, and I hope that this addresses what people may see as a pointless course. I think that the more that people grow, they realize how important these issues are because those are the issues that never leave human society,” Ms. Kim said.

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Rainier English teacher Sunli Kim

Ms. Kim, a graduate of Stanford University in 2015, is a constant reader and writer who teaches her students to be the same. When writing creatively, Ms. Kim reads texts, from books to blogs, to form the foundation for her inspiration and ideas.

“I might look to different writing samples, go on blogs or poetry foundations, or just read through some of my favorite books or poems for inspiration. I feel like the most helpful times have been in a workshop, and there is a particular activity where we read first lines or famous first lines, and we try to copy that sort of structure and come up with a first line ourselves. And then, that usually makes me think of why it was impactful, how it made me feel, and how I could replicate that, but not using that exact same style,” Ms. Kim said.

Overall, Ms. Kim believes that reading should be practiced, despite the fading of the older arts of literature. She finds literature of all cultures are valuable to everyone because even though they are not in English or translated, the thoughts and ideas that are expressed make the texts no less valuable.

“I think that reading as an activity in the traditional sense that people associated with is not what it was because of our very easy access to different types of information, and that then affects the way we interact with things we read … I think that sort of structure is fading out a bit. I think there are also trends based on your age group. I know that in high school and in college, my friends usually looked at me weirdly for constantly reading; but at this point in time, they have the audacity to recommend the activity to me. The activity itself is valuable … So I think there are different structures and places in our society that present what people think are similar outcomes, but I would argue otherwise,” Ms. Kim said.  

Christina Bell-Robinson, the sophomore English teacher at Summit Public School: Rainier, has been in love with English literature, specifically poetry, since her high school years. As she teaches today, she feels as though students are afraid to show their true colors and are stopping themselves from getting to know themselves more and understanding their emotions. It is her goal for the school year to bring forth the best and most pure versions of her students so that the ones who fear expressing themselves are no longer afraid to show who they are.


Rainier English teacher Christina Bell-Robinson

“I love reading and writing myself, and I feel like it’s not only important, but I feel like some people are scared to do it because maybe they’re scared to share how they really think and feel, and I see that a lot with students who either don’t want to write something or don’t want to share their idea, or kind of just follow the crowd- like, they’re really scared to kind of figure out how they really feel about something, and I feel like that’s important, and I hope that by the end of this school year, I can get kids to truly look into themselves and see what they are passionate about, and not be scared to be different or to share their own beliefs,” Ms. Bell-Robinson said.

A graduate of Northwest University, with a bachelors in English, and Western Governor’s University, with a masters in teaching English, Ms. Bell-Robinson played on the women’s tackle football team for the Seattle Majestics. She loves English literature, and she believes that the communication skills that are obtained through learning about it are a necessary skill to be able to effectively express ideas to other people.

“The thing with English is that you need to be able to communicate with people effectively, and so knowing how to write, even though people don’t love writing, but knowing how to get your ideas across and be super concise, and to the point, and write for a purpose is probably one of the most important things because you need to communicate on all levels no matter what you do in your life,” Ms. Bell-Robinson said.

Doe Myers, the junior English teacher at Summit Public School: Rainier, says that English literature, reading, and writing, can help students embrace a side to life that she believes is being neglected. In what she has heard in what students are reading nowadays, Ms. Myers is happy that students are reading. She hopes that students will be able to realize that they are capable of making differences in society and that they can find pleasure in reading.


Rainier English teacher Doe Myers

I don’t think students are not reading enough. I just think they are missing a lovely joy in life. What they are reading, it sounds like a lot of kids are reading dystopian literature, and if they’re reading, I’m very happy. If they’re taking from it that there are problems to be solved and they’re getting ideas on how to solve them, that’s great. What I don’t like about dystopian literature is that often, it is one person, one hero, or one heroine who is solving the problem, which I don’t think is a realistic solution to any problem. We are a community, we are a democracy, we are a republic, and one lone hero at high noon, solving the problems, that would be my concern that they might take that …. What I hope they’re taking is the pleasure of reading- that’s what I hope they’re taking,” Ms. Myers said.

Ms. Myers, originally from New England, graduated from Merrimack College, in North Andover, Massachusetts. She was the first person in her family to graduate from college. Later, she received her masters in Library Science from San Jose State University. Ms. Myers has two grown children of her own, Zoe and Cory, both of whom graduated from Summit. She has had much experience with English literature, and she stresses critical thinking when teaching her students, as good evidence and strong reasoning is what results in clarity in a conversation. These skills are the ones that Ms. Myers values the most when teaching her English class.

“Since my class is all about nonfiction writing, I would say what I want my students to do is use good evidence, check to see that your gut thinking matches some relevant evidence that is available in the world today. I’d love to see them really consider the other side, so that counter-argument is not just another exercise, that it is actually a chance to critically look at the other side and actually see they probably have a good point. It doesn’t mean that you change your mind- it could, but that you recognize that things are more complex than one way of thinking. I would like them to ought to realize that no matter what they care about, if they’re not clear in their writing, they might not be clear, themselves, and other people may not be clear about it is they want to say, so clarity is so important,” Ms. Myers said. 

Karren Windsor, the senior English teacher at Summit Public School: Rainier, is someone who has loved reading for as long as she can remember. Ms. Windsor says that the more one practices, the better their communication skills become. She strongly believes that English literature can embody what we seek, from the purpose in life, to our origins. It is her understanding that there are some who believe reading and writing is outdated, but she thinks of English as a means to better understand ourselves, the world, and the happenings in society.

“I think the more a person reads, the more eloquent they become, both in their writing and their speaking, and the better they can understand others’ communication … English class is all about communication … Some people think that reading is passé, something we did in the past before things became all visual now, but I think it is really the human endeavor of trying to communicate clearly and trying to understand one another. That, and especially for teenagers, but for everybody, we’re always trying to figure out meaning- the purpose of life, our origins, our morals, our destinies, all of those things, we are trying to figure out, and literature, especially fiction, deals with those, and it deals with all the choices that people make, as well as the consequence of all those choices,” Ms. Windsor said.


Rainier English teacher Karren Windsor

Ms. Windsor completed her undergraduate work at Wellesley College, took several courses at MIT and then finished her graduate work, studying clinical counseling and receiving the MSW degree from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. Prior to becoming a teacher, she worked as a therapist for some time, which has given her much insight to how humans think, react, and change. Ms. Windsor has realized that the human culture is transforming, and she has come to recognize that the time that is taken to find answers to life through stories has drastically changed from the many hours it took to finish a book to the near hour or so it takes to watch a TV show.

“I’ve just found it really interesting that we used to be a reading culture and we have become a watching culture. I think that makes it harder for us to have patience with one another. I think that in our watching culture, the answers to problems are given to us quickly, like at the end of the half-hour TV show, or at the end of the two-hour movie, whereas when you read, you spend maybe ten or fifteen hours with a book or with a person’s growth and development, and so I think that gives us more time to grow with them,” Ms. Windsor said. 

With so much more available to society with technology, it is easy for people to get their hands on texts and literary works. Poetry and short stories are even becoming more abundant in the cyber world. It gives readers a chance to better understand literature and open their knowledge to different kinds of writings from classics, to sonnets, to free verse, to modern fiction. In the end, it is all up to perhaps the most important part: the reader’s analysis of the story.

Something that is read, spoken and lived every day, English literature has greatly influenced our society, according to Sunli Kim, Christina Bell-Robinson, Doe Myers and Karren Windsor. All of the English teachers of Summit Public School: Rainier believe that English literature, reading and writing, has been under-practiced in recent years. The art is slowly dissipating, changing from reading and writing to texting and watching. It is their message to society, and the youth within in it, that this art should be practiced so that they can be better individuals who can make bigger differences and allow English literature to strive for as long as possible. It is lived every day, and even though there are some that overlook key details through overly passive reading, there are still some parts of literature that influence society, the world and the everyday lives of the people.

Martial arts instructor explains what makes Wushu a unique sport

By Keith Dinh

Staff Writer

Xuanzi Zhuanti 720 (旋子转体七百二十), better known as the 720-degree-rotation Butterfly-twist, is a high level difficulty jump-kick of the martial art sport Wushu (武術). This acrobatic move is used in contemporary floor routines of Wushu and is part of the point-scoring difficulty movements that are considered of professional level. The difficulty movements, or “nandu” (难度), are similar to those of gymnastic movements and ice-skating corkscrews, axels and quads. These nandu highlight the agility of Wushu athletes and show what Wushu has evolved into today, with its gymnastic-like routines merged with traditional martial arts.

Wushu. You’d probably not know it by name, but if you’ve ever watched a Kung Fu movie or Chinese drama, you probably have an idea of what it is. Originating in China’s Shaolin Temple Monastery, Wushu is a martial art that dates back to the 17th century B.C. Nowadays, with the warring era past, China has started to modernize Wushu to preserve the culture. Wushu is seen all over the world, being taught in local academies or schools. Especially in the Bay Area, we see many Wushu and Kung Fu schools that teach this modernized art and its ancient disciplines and morals.


Martial Arts Instructor Sifu Terry Motoko Pan

Martial Arts Instructor Sifu Terry Motoko Pan is an expert in Wushu, having practiced it for a little over a decade. A “Sifu” (師傅) in Wushu is a master of the art who can teach and take in disciples (life-long dedicated students). Traditionally, a sifu in China is like a father to the students that dedicate themselves to the art. Sifu Pan shared what she believes makes Wushu such a unique sport and martial art and explained all of the the sport’s health benefits, the culture it carries and why it is a sport worth looking into and practicing. She described her experiences in Wushu as “very uplifting and more changing.”

Sifu Pan explained a little bit of what you would typically see with today’s Wushu: “The sports aspect is much more focused upon, and so you’ll see people doing a lot of high acrobatic moves that probably would not be used in a wartime situation. I don’t think people would actually see those Chinese dramas. That’s a bit taken out of context a little bit, but it still looks really cool,” she said.

“I suppose Wushu is a way of life because what it teaches is the fact that you become one with your body, and you know it better than what you knew before. So your movements, your breathing, how you do something all encompasses in one person, one being, and how they show it,” Sifu Pan said.


A competitor in the 2016 China Wushu Championships performs the swallow balance, a nandu, in her Changquan (長拳) form routine. SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons

Being seen as a way of life to many, there are also many health benefits that come with the sport (if practiced correctly). These benefits include better flexibility, balance, strength, speed, power and accuracy on the physical side, but also perseverance, self-control, confidence, humility and responsibility on the mental side.

“People think that Wushu is a sport; they just think that it’s good exercise, and it is, but the thing is that more than just exercise, it teaches you your body. It teaches you how to move, what your body does, the mechanics of it, how to take care of it … it teaches you to be careful and be aware of how you move and how others around you move as well … I feel that a lot of times, people when they first start, they don’t actually think or acknowledge that part of it because they think that it’s just a sport, but when you really internalize it, then you’re aware of different things,” Sifu Pan said.


Students of a Wushu school in China practice their horse-stance (馬步; mǎ bù), a basic foundation of the sport and almost all other martial arts. SOURCE: Flickr

As the sport is progressing in publicity through time, Sifu Pan believes that the sport is still able to make much more progress in this area. Wushu has been in many films that we see nowadays and has almost made it as an Olympic sport in the past.

Sifu Pan explained why she thinks Wushu is not an Olympic sport and how it is progressing in publicity: “For one thing, it’s not part of the Olympics. Why? Because China would mop the floor with everybody! Publicity wise, I think it is at least known because of films like ‘Kung Fu Panda.’ For example now, for Wushu, I feel like it could be a little more out there, but then again, it could be very difficult to, because a lot of times, it’s not as well-known or at least publicized like Taekwondo, for example, which is in the Olympics,” Sifu Pan said.

According to Sifu Pan, Wushu has potential to become an Olympic sport, but, “The only thing, as I said before, is that if they did add it as an Olympic sport, China would win, hands down, because that’s where all the top athletes are. So I’ve seen some great athletes from over there come here, and there is really no comparison.”


A Shaolin lay disciple of the Shaolin Monastery practices Shaolinquan (少林拳), showcasing his flexibility. SOURCE: Flickr

China has trained all of their top Wushu athletes from ages as young as 2 to 3, shaping their bodies to best fit to the sport so that all of the provinces can pit against each other in their Wushu portion of the All China Games. The sport demands high jumps and acrobatic movements in floor routines nowadays, quite similar to gymnastic routines, with moves such as aerials, butterfly-twists, aerial twists, flips, gainers and more. With so many advantages, China is the country that is most likely to win, hands down, if Wushu were added into the Olympic Games.

“So the example is that for some of the schools, let’s say in other nations, they’ll teach a lot of the right-side jump-kicks dominantly, but then you go to China, and they’re completely ambidextrous. They can use either side, no problem, and then it becomes more of a test of skill,” Sifu Pan said.

Wushu is, over all, something that someone can practice to live a better life. You can gain better awareness of your body, mind and spirit. Though the chance is that Chinese athletes would dominate this sport if it were in the Olympic Games, it is still a sport worthwhile to practice.

In Wushu, “They actually teach you how to do it differently so you won’t be exhausted as much, and, also, you will actually know how your body is, and if you know that there is something wrong, you can catch it early enough to be able to treat it right away, and that way, you won’t actually suffer any grievous injuries, especially like say, for example, soccer – you do a kick, you miss, and you wind up on the ground or hit somebody. Well, that’s not being aware of who you are or anyone else around you,” Sifu Pan said.

Besides health being such a big part that sets Wushu aside from other martial arts, it has its similarities and differences from other martial arts. Sifu Pan said, “The things is that a lot of the basic movements are the same. So let’s say you do a block, it protects yourself. Those are practically integrated into every single martial arts because it’s self-defense.”


A junior Wushu team poses after a performance with their weapons, showcasing their flexibility and pride. SOURCE: Flickr

Other than the similarities of basic movements, there are many weapons in the martial world. Wushu has an entire branch of weapons and styles of its own, ranging from the spear (Qiang 槍), to staff (Gun 棍), to straightsword (Jian 劍) or the broadsword (Dao 刀). Alongside the weapons, there are multiple different styles that set Wushu as a unique sport which allows practitioners to adapt to almost any environment if fluent and knowledgeable in the art.

“Now, the thing is, weapons and your different styles, those are actually a little bit different. Because you think about Karate versus Chinese Kung Fu – it’s a little bit different. Karate is a bit stiffer, but by no means is it less effective. But then Chinese Wushu is actually a bit more flexible in terms of there are these things you can do,” Sifu Pan said.


A teenager practices his butterfly kick  (旋子;xuàn zi ) at Independence High School. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

Sifu Pan explained how Wushu allows flexibility, not only of the body, but of the mind and styles as well. In a fight, there will be certain moves a martial artist uses, and, “If something happens and this move doesn’t work, then they can switch right away, so they can switch modes, and you can easily defend yourself using another different variety and throw off your opponent. So in terms of Wushu, they actually use their whole body as a protection mechanism and a defensive mechanism and also for attack. So I feel like in that regard, that’s one of the things that offsets Wushu from other mainstream styles.”

With so much health and uniqueness to the sport, there is one of thing that Sifu Pan said makes this sport stand out: “Any age can practice. I’ve seen people as old as 60 doing it, and they’re doing full jump kicks, splits, so I feel that almost any age can really do it, from young to old. But as you get older, I feel that body-wise, you have to make sure that you still maintain your health, and you’re making sure that you’re still able to do what you really want to do. There are high jump kicks, or splits, etc,” she said.


Wushu masters from around the world gather for a picture after a performance at Michaan’s Theater. PHOTO CREDIT: Sifu Ding Yan Qing

Wushu, a sport full of rich history of China, is slowly making its way in publicity and into the daily lives of other people. Though not known by its name, it is recognized all over the world by people who love the Chinese dramas and Kung Fu movies. With people such as Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Jet Li starring in so many of these films, and the help of martial coaches such as Sifu Terry Motoko Pan, Wushu is becoming more famous and widely known to the rest of the world. Wushu is more than just a martial art; it’s also a way of improving health and a way of life.

Students are taught how to teach and plan in Education Pathways

By Keith Dinh

Staff Writer  

Education Pathways is a course that teaches its students how to make their own lesson plans, teach other students and learn more about the political, or even historical, aspects of teaching. On top of that, the course allows students to have hands-on experience in teaching. This course is not only for students who want to become teachers, but also for students who want better planning skills, improved persuasion skills, and a way to polish their skills at interacting effectively with other people.

This year, Education Pathways’ Celebration of Learning projects consist of posters that the students put together to show what they have learned through the course of this year. The posters depict how each student’s thoughts on the course have changed through the year, and some even display their future career goals that utilize many of the teachings they have attained from this course.

Maritza Aguirre, a freshman at Summit Rainier, said, “Education Pathways is kind of weird, because she is teaching you how to be a teacher and teaching you about the education system. So what I’ve learned so far is kind of what teachers are thinking about when they’re planning their lessons, how they interact with students and just the problems in education today.”

See below for a video about this course:

San Jose city leaders give perspective on how to build community

By Keith Dinh

Staff Writer

Community volunteers, leaders and nonprofit organizers of the City of San Jose are working hard every day to bring their community and residents toward a brighter future, telling us more of their journey to the present day and what their plans are for their community.

San Jose City volunteer Jai Srinivasan started his journey toward community leadership with the recollection of stories of his grandfather in India. “A little bit of my family history for you: my grandfather, in India, he was known as a ‘community servant’, so he was basically helping a lot of families who were struggling financially. He used to give them much of his money … donate stuff; textbooks and other things. He used to run a bank, so he used to approve loans for people who were really struggling financially and things like that … Our genes kind of carried over from him, and my dad is also very similar. He was also a community organizer, and it’s kind of been there in the back of my mind for a while, so when I had an opportunity to help the kids when I had my own kids, I had an opportunity to get involved in the community, and that came about in a very interesting way.”

“There was a storm drain near the front of our home that used to get clogged with leaves in autumn … it used to back up the water … and I used to keep complaining …  ‘why doesn’t somebody clean that!? Why is it always clogging?’- and innocently enough, I think my daughter was three …  she said, ‘Daddy, why don’t we clean it?’, and it suddenly struck me. ‘What am I doing? Why am I complaining? If you want something done, it’s simple enough. You just go there, clear the leaves, and the water will go away,’ and that’s what I did…”


Jai Srivivasan, San Jose City Volunteer

After that moment, Mr. Srinivasan’s want to help his community was ignited, and, over a bit of time, he realized that the best place to start helping his community was by starting to help out in schools and school events.

“I then tried to figure out where else I can help, and the easiest places were the schools … So I kind of started getting involved a little bit by bit, and started to get involved in helping the children and so on … I tried to get people together. I encourage people to speak up, and not just keep complaining that nothing is happening. You can complain, because that is your right, but also tell us a solution … So I kept encouraging them and things like that, and that’s where the whole thing started.”

Mr. Srinivasan is involved in several different non-profits. “This year, I am the vice president of Sierramont Middle School’s PTSA … I am also on the Board of Directors for the Berryessa Music Boosters, which supports the music program of the Berryessa Union School District … I am serving as president there as well. I am on the Board of Directors of the North Valley Council of PTA’s, and have been serving as president for the past two years till today. That organization manages 16 PTAs in the area, including three from Mt. Pleasant’s school district … I just recently started joining the School Site Council of high schools as an alternate parent. So if someone is not able to fulfill their responsibilities, I am supposed to step in. So this year, I am involved in four different places.”

Mr. Srinivasan had a vision for his community from when he first started his current roles. “So the primary vision is to build a stronger community. The basic idea is that if everybody in the community succeeds, then the community thrives, and it kind of extrapolates, and becomes a wider range. So if each community succeeds, the city succeeds, and if the city succeeds, then the state succeeds, and so forth. So it starts at the very basic level. That’s where I thought it was the best place to start to make an impact … we want to make sure that all of the children, regardless of their background, are given the same opportunities, and there is equity in whatever the school rules and whatever the state is doing. That’s the main thing that we are focusing on: children’s advocacy.” Mr. Srinivasan has more planned for the future of his community, mainly focusing on educating parents and advocating for all school children.

Within the school system, we have the charter school system of Summit Public Schools. Focusing on the community of Summit Rainier, we have a well-decorated, well-known city volunteer standing among us in the school’s office every morning.

Lisa Kobayashi is a parent volunteer and a stay-at-home mom who had a vision for Summit before the branch of Rainier came to be established in 2011. Ms. Kobayashi tells us, “For Rainier, working with the students, and the ones who come late to school [looking intently at a late student, signing himself in], I try to get them into their classes as fast as possible, so they don’t miss much class, but also relieving some of the pressure from the office if I can. So working in the Japanese-American community, it was more of preserving. So having different opportunities for my kids.”


Lisa Kobayashi, City Volunteer and Stay-at-home Mom

Before becoming a parent, Ms. Kobayashi went to college and learned more about her own cultural background, and she used as much of her knowledge as possible to make a suitable environment for her two children. “When I went to college, I majored in American Studies … So I studied history, literature and politics, and I focused on Japanese Americans. I did a lot of work with my family history and the pasts, so like, my grandmother’s immigration story and what she did, but also studied other immigrant groups. When I graduated from college, I worked for a senior center, so working with the elderly and the Japanese Americans, and then I had kids, so once they were born, my mind kind of switched gears and I became a stay-at-home mom. But then they were involved with Las Madres Playgroups, so I was involved with that, preschool, Girl Scouts, and things like that. It all builds upon each other. Then, even though Emily is in college, I still do stuff for her.” This was the beginning of her current role in the community of San Jose.

Even in a smaller school environment there are roadblocks, which are, “Trying to use your skills so that they are not wasted, so being efficient or effective. There are lots of things that need to be done that nobody else wants to do, but sometimes you just need to find the right person to the job. Also, leveraging who and what I know to make it more effective to our community. So, involving other people as well,” she said.

From the perspectives of the school and neighborhood community, to that of a home-maker and decorated nonprofit volunteer, Muneerah Lalani, with her degree in nonprofit management from San Jose State University, started her role in the community by volunteering at her daughter’s school (Noble Elementary School), and has been busy in her plans for bringing together all of the nonprofit organizations to work together for a better future.

“I am very much involved in a lot of nonprofits. I started with the Noble Elementary PTA group, and I came across a lot of individuals who were very involved with community service. So you network with a lot of people and you get involved with a lot of local communities as well,” Ms. Lalani said.

There are, of course, always roadblocks to every role and position in the community of San Jose. “The hardest part, sometimes, is when you’re reaching out to volunteers, and they probably do not have the same level of commitment that you require them to have, or sometimes they just sign up for some projects, and then they don’t show up. So I guess the motivation is not there, but we are trying [to get] more and more people motivated,” Ms. Lalani said.

Muneerah Lalani, City Volunteer and Home Maker

Ms. Lalani has spent countless hours in trying to not only reach out to everyday people, but she has reached out to many of city politicians to help the cause. Despite all of her hard work for her city, at the end of the day, she is a mother, and she feels pride in what she has done alongside satisfaction, and contentment. She has felt inspired from all of the people she’s worked with and has met.

“I think the reason why I say I’m proud of it is because my daughter is very proud of me for being involved, but a lot of other people or other children who are not related to me, and have come and have said that they have become inspired to become more involved in the local community, so I think that’s a great step,” she said.

From the local neighborhood community to city community, we find a leader who plays a big role in helping his district and plays a part in pulling the city together. San Jose City Councilman of District 7 Tam Nguyen has spent the last four years in office, serving this district with pride and love. “My first two priorities are to keep my district and city safe and clean, and then later on would be better traffic, better roads, and so forth … I serve the needs of the City of San Jose, especially the residents of District 7,” the councilman said.

Councilman Nguyen spends the majority of his day at work at City Hall, and the remainder of his day in his district, helping out community centers, coming to check up on people in their homes, and helping to clean up his district in any way he can. On weekends, he would spend his time picking up trash, carrying his phone with him to answer any calls from residents that need his assistance. Anyone can reach him by cellphone or find him working in the field.

“For the past three years or so, I clean up every weekend. I have many dumpster days, clean-up days, community events. I come to them to connect people to keep the community of District 7 safe and clean … All of my time is here with the community, listening to them, sharing with them, their difficulties, and I do whatever I can to make their life easier,”  he said.

“I am launching two programs. One is ‘Coffee with Tam’… The residents can send me a text at any time … They text me and can meet me anywhere, anytime, and show me the district or city topic … I also launched ‘Clean-up with Tam’, because sometimes, it takes longer for the city to run a response. With District 7, there is a lot of trash, a lot of homeless, a lot of issues, so if each neighbor were to text me and say, ‘Tam, I want to clean up in my corner,’ I’ll say yes … I make myself available from 8 to 10, every Saturday morning … not wait a month for a city response.”

Tam Nguyen, San Jose City Councilman of District 7

Not only is the district as a whole important to Mr. Nguyen, the children in the school system also have his attention. He assigned and put together crosswalks for the children to be able to safely walk to school. He helps his community with different events, from lighting of the district Christmas trees, to the New Year’s Celebration, Lunar New Year’s celebrations, and larger gatherings within the district to bring people together and encourage people to make a difference.

“Because I only come and go, we only have four to eight years in office, we go on with life, right? So let’s work together. The bottom-line is that the job is there, and there is a lot needed to be done, so let’s work together as a team, and do it in a constructive and respectful way together. That would be my, if you’d say, my ‘message’ to his community,” Mr. Nguyen said.

Every person in the city community of San Jose plays a different role, and plays a different perspective. Though there are many problems that are similar and different with each position, there is one problem that is the same for each position. The need for volunteers and help from other residents in the city is always needed. One person can only make a small difference and encourage others; it takes everyone working together to make a difference in bringing the city and the sub communities toward a brighter and better future.  

English teacher talks about her past experiences and her personal identity

By Keith Dinh

Staff Writer

Sunli Kim teaches ninth and tenth grade English at Summit Public School: Rainier. In her second year of teaching, she spoke of her experiences, where she comes from and what her journey was to be the person she is today.

1. What is your educational background?

“I grew up in the Bay Area, went through all grades of the public schools, and went to Los Gatos for high school. That was a huge transition for me. Then I went to Stanford for my undergraduate in English. I was going to actually pursue communications for journalism, then realized that maybe something I’m more interested in is education, so I stayed there for masters and credentials in education.”


Summit Rainier English teacher Sunli Kim

2. Why did you want to be a teacher?

“So in college, I became really involved with a lot of student organizations and groups and student activism and community organizing. That was something that I wanted to continue to have in my life when I moved on from my higher education and from college, and I also really wanted to make sure I was constantly challenging myself and learning more and more about literature. I firmly believe that the process of teaching is intensive learning, and so I felt that teaching might be something that might fulfill all of those areas.”


3. Why did you specifically want to teach in a Project-Based Learning environment, not a traditional one?

“I was really curious about the way the school would confront the traditional expectations and structures of a school, and I wanted to be learning in an environment where all of my colleagues and the people I would surround myself with were constantly pushing the boundaries and trying to figure out different ways of viewing education. Yeah, I thought that maybe this was like seeing how education can be more personalized for students and meeting with people to learn from them, and that sort of capacity would be a really good experience for me.”

5. What kind of student were you in your basic education?

“I was a hardworking student, I think. I had a lot of confidence in my academic identity as a student and probably nothing much else, and so I was very quiet. I don’t think a lot of people knew I existed, I was a total wallflower!”

7. What hobbies do you have?

“Hobbies – I currently, play the drums. I guess I’m overall just like very invested in music. I like making playlists, I like listening and finding new artists and songs, I also do boulder, so that’s the type of climbing where it’s on a shorter wall, but without the ropes and pulleys.”

8. What is your cultural background?

“So, I was born in Korea, and my parents met in a city called Incheon, in South Korea, and my dad was having a lot of trouble finding jobs in Korea at the time, and so he saw a newspaper advertisement for job postings that were in L.A. at the time, and so he went for it, about a few months after I was born, and that is how me, my mom, my dad, and my grandma all immigrated to L.A., and we lived there for five years, and then moved up to the Bay Area. So I’ve pretty much lived in California all my life, but the whole rest of my family is in Korea.”

9. What did your parents do for their occupation?

“So my dad is now, a semiconductor engineer, and so he was here, and, we got really lucky because he got here before Silicon Valley became this huge, booming engineering industry, and so yeah. My mother used to work at a health office, and was originally a food scientist major, but then, gave up all of that to take care of us at home.”

10. How do you see your parents supporting you in your education and life in general?

“I think I owe a lot to my parents; they’re really important people to me. I think they constantly pushed me to do the best I could, and, I think for a long time, I really disliked them for it because I didn’t see the big picture, but I think now that I’m more, a little more of an adult, and now that I’m nearing the age that they were when they had to make these big decisions in their life. I really admire them, so, you know.”

11. What were some of your most memorable events that are influential to your life?

“Hmm, the most memorable events that were influential to my life – so I grew up with my grandma, and she was a really core part of me and my growing up experience, and then in high school, she passed away, and that was one of the few times that, because her family in Korea wanted her to be buried there, that was one of the few times I went to Korea before college, and it was a very very short trip, but time wise, it felt like a very very long suspended amount of time, and I think I have a lot of memories from that trip and from that time that are still very vivid and still inform a lot of my writing, and I think a lot of the ways that I see my identity and the way I see the world. There’s that, and then also, in college, just meeting a lot of my closest friends now, and all the things we went through and the organizing we did together.”

12. Who was your favorite teacher ever, and why?  

“In high school, I had a teacher named Ms. Smith, who was really, really scary, and really strict, but also probably one of the most caring teachers that I had at the school, and her classroom really was this safe place for me, and she really brought me out of my shell. She was also was one of the first people to get me to see the world very differently and be aware of all the systems that we have in place that like it gives some groups advantages over others, and so I think she really changed the way that I view the world, and yeah, and then in college, I had a professor who opened up this whole world of literature to me and yeah.”

13. Which style of teaching would you prefer between the traditional and PBL styles?

“Sure, I think lecturing doesn’t do super much for a whole group of people, and so while there might be a time and place for that sort of style, I think I find a lot of value in making sure students know how to teach themselves, like how they are taking their own learning into their own hands. That’s something actually that I’m still figuring out a process for ‘how to teach how to learn.”’

14. Do you plan on continuing this career pathway? If not, what other occupations you would plan going into?

“Well, as far as I can see, I definitely want to stay in teaching for the time being, or be involved with education in some capacity. If, for some crazy life event reason, I was unable to teach, then I would still want to be connected to education in some way, and to literature in some way.”