Ms. Be Vang
Kim Hwang, PsyD
AAP staff columnist
ST. PAUL (Dec. 29, 2011) — I recently had the wonderful opportunity of sitting down and interviewing Ms. Be Vang, Principal and Assistant Superintendent Intern in the St. Paul Public School District.
Immediately, I was struck by her upbeat energy, appetite for life and professional aspirations. Principal Intern Vang possesses many positive attributes, each of which compliment her career in education. She has a great sense of humor, dedication to education, joy of learning and a strong commitment to children.
Ms. Vang is currently working to complete both an administrative internship at Frost Lake Elementary School and an Assistant Superintendent Internship, in the St. Paul Public School District at the University of Minnesota.
Vang was raised to honor education, create goals, achieve, respect her elders, work hard, show deep gratitude, honor the Hmong culture that raised her up and strive towards Excellence. Ultimately, Ms. Vang aspires to obtain a principal position so that she can strive for systematic changes that she feels will benefit all children.
In addition, she imagines advocating on behalf of Hmong families as a part of her overall professional role. She believes that she can make a positive difference as a both a Hmong community member in St. Paul and an Asian professional, in a leadership role. Her unique perspectives about the value of education are inclusive and focus on a reduction of racism and an increase in success for all students.
Immediately, Principal Intern Vang launched into prideful stories about the wonderful teachers at Frost Lake. She spoke highly of their dedication and compassion. Even though I asked her many direct questions about the work that she has done so far, she most often shared stories of success, which were attributed to the parents, staff and students.
While Ms. Vang is proud to be blessed with strong traits that are positively connected to her character and work ethic, she modestly divides accomplishments up with everyone she works with. Even so, her resume is filled with numerous educational experiences, substantial community involvement and professional leadership expertise, she boldly stated, “I could not do what I do without family and colleague support.”
Nostalgically, Ms. Vang recalled graduating from Highland Park Senior High as an important mile marker. She was the first in her generation to graduate from both college with bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree. When I asked her what she cared most about, she responded, “Everything!”
I was not surprised. She is proud of her family and her children. With a smile from ear to ear, she shared lovely and endearing stories about each one of her children: Melina (17 years old), Erick (15 years old) Jeffery (10 years old) and Kaleigh (5-years old).
“In their own way they are each very special and it is a joy watching them come into themselves,” she said.
It is Vang’s expectation that all of her children will attend college as she has, so that they too can give back to a community of people who have paved the road for her.
Vang shared that it is a challenge at times to balance honoring the Hmong culture and at the same time embracing mainstream culture. Yet, she is able to see important value in both. She sees vividly that Hmong parents are working tirelessly to fulfill the obligations and expectations that their parents set for them.
Her parents had high expectations, according to Vang. They expected her to succeed in school, excel in extra curricular activities, be a good daughter, take care of family responsibilities, take care of your parents, and be committed to extended family.
The dance of honoring her Hmong heritage and meeting responsibilities is one that Ms. Vang does with excitement and pleasure.
She recalled, “As an adolescent, if you say your going to do something you have to do it.” She did not want to disappointment, shame her family because she felt strongly that their belief in her was critical to her journey. Part of being in a Hmong family means, “. . . making a choice to be a part of community and reciprocate what you have received.”
Vang assigns her high level of self-motivation to both, her father (Wakou Vang) and her mother, (Ge Vang).
“I know they are proud of me,” she said humbly. “They talk to people about me. They share my stories with others.”
I was most impressed by Ms. Vang’s hope for a better future. She stated, “Hope in some small way is something I can return to others as a way to impact how the future is shaped for our children.”
She emphasized a strong need to model for children how much is able to do to make life better. She desires for her children to work hard and pass this along to their children as well.
“I tell myself, it’s because I am such a strong-willed woman, that nothing can impact me,” said Vang.
But she admits that she draws her happiness and liveliness from being a mom, Hmong family member and public school educator.
“I live by five simple rules: Teach and practice the concept of interdependency, stop spreading assumptions and misconceptions, teach children to think and ask questions, appreciate and respect differences, emphasize commonalities of the human race.”