July 8, 2015

Teachers Talk Back: Lisa Quon

Lisa Quon has been teaching for 17 years, and has spent the last 10 as a teacher at San Pascual Elementary School in Los Angeles, Calif. 

In 2014, she was selected to the United Way LA’s list of 25 Teachers to Watch, and this year is on its advisory board. She is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher and an LAUSD Teacher of the Year. She currently also serves as the UTLA Chapter Chair.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Felipe Ramirez (FR): What inspired you to become a teacher?

Lisa Quon (LQ): I began as an English teacher in China back in 1996-97 and that certainly influenced my decision to become a teacher when I returned to the States. While in China, I was also exposed to a deep love of learning from people of all walks of life.  But I was also inspired by my elementary teachers who never cast me aside and who sought out opportunities for me. I think about teachers like my first grade teacher Mrs. Berglan, who submitted my Thanksgiving drawing to the local papers where it was published. She looked beyond my language deficits and saw my assets. She empowered me to eventually become an ambassador for empowering students because she saw potential in me.

FR: What is the issue in education you are most passionate about?

LQ: I’m very passionate about helping every student become successful no matter where they come from, and about leveling the playing field for all kids. I grew up in Highland Park, and I specifically chose to work here because this is where I feel most useful. I am here to empower students who are just like me.

I’m also passionate about helping the teaching profession get the recognition and respect it deserves! There needs to be a cultural shift so that American society begins to value teachers and their craft. People don’t realize how much research goes into good teaching!

FR: How can we support our early career teachers so that they stay and build the prestige of the profession?

LQ: Mentoring and coaching are definitely a plus. Enabling a rookie to observe in a highly qualified teacher’s classroom is great. This may sound like a radical thought, but filming yourself teaching a lesson and watching yourself in action is a good way to judge your strong suits and things you need to work on. Additionally, getting specific and timely feedback from trustworthy peers, mentors, coaches, and leaders allows you the ability to reflect on your actions. Teachers need a positive support group that nurtures and motivates professional inquiry and growth.

FR: How can teachers be leaders and advocates for these kinds of changes?

LQ: It is our responsibility as teachers to inspire change, and do so with a sense of urgency! We need to teach our students that it is our responsibility to be the agents of change. It is not enough to uncover the problems; we need to become part of the solution. We need to model change in and out of the classroom!

Another way to advocate for change is by being actively involved in decision-making at the school level and outside of school level. We can do this by serving on boards and councils, and being a member of political organizations, such as a union, so we can drive the change.

FR: Why did you become a member of E4E?

LQ: I saw this as an opportunity to support both teachers and students. I am a learner so I’m always looking for ways to grow, improve my craft, and connect with like-minded people. Recognizing that policy has such a large impact on students and education, I wanted to become more aware of these issues and E4E is definitely an organization that has motivated me to look at education through a different lens. E4E supports teachers by gathering policy teams related to things issues teachers care about, such as supporting students, teacher pay, and teacher tenure.