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Kindergarten Teacher, Larissa Hsia-Wong, is in the News!

Friday, February 19, 2021

PHS' very own Kindergarten Teacher, Larissa Hsia-Wong, was interviewed for a recent Local News Matters article: "Magical memories of growing up with the Chinese New Year Parade, canceled because of COVID-19". We asked Larissa a few additional questions about her educational journey and how she encourages her students to explore their individual identity and celebrate and learn about all cultures; her responses are inspiring!

Q: How do you feel your educational experience influences the way you teach at PHS? 

One of the most exciting things about studying for my doctorate while teaching at PHS is reading and learning about studies and experiences that help me reframe (on almost a daily basis!) my approach to teaching and learning. I feel so fortunate to be at PHS, a school that is truly guided by its social justice values and that encourages teachers to try on new approaches to continuously challenge ourselves to grow. In grad school, whether I'm learning about honoring indigenous epistemologies, creating culturally sustaining practices, or engaging in critical discourse analyses, I always ask myself, "What could this look like in Kindergarten?" It really is such a privilege to be teaching and learning at the same time.

Q: Why did you choose to go into teaching? Why Kindergarten?

I like to say that teaching chose me because I never wanted to leave the classroom! I was always that kid who was so excited to go to school, stayed late after school, and volunteered at camps during the summer. I always felt at home with my teachers, classmates, and books. I started my teaching experience as a middle school teacher and over the years, made my way down to Kindergarten. I absolutely LOVE Kindergarten because 5 and 6 year olds have such a pure and genuine sense of justice and fairness and it is inspiring and refreshing to be around young minds who still believe in a better world. I see Kindergarten as such a critical year–not just in terms of solidifying numeracy and literacy skills–but also in social-emotional development and racial identity formation.

Q: How do you encourage students to embrace their identity and to learn about and celebrate other cultures? 

As a teacher, my goal is to create a learning community grounded in love and kindness that empowers our young learners to embrace and share their stories (lived experiences), identities, and wonderings. I also think it is important to help our young learners understand that how they identify and how they choose to express their identities will grow and develop. Each iteration of their identities is a reflection of their true selves, and I also think it is important to help our youngest learners understand that while they are on their own individual and beautiful journeys, their journeys are also informed by the stories and experiences of their peers, families, and communities. Much of these convictions come from my own experiences of not feeling like I had the "permission" to share and talk about my experiences and stories; therefore, as a teacher, I really try to make sure I am creating a space that allows our students to do so. 

Q: What is your favorite memory of your own independent school experience at CAIS? 

I certainly am a grateful product of independent schooling. From CAIS (Chinese American Independent School), to UHS (University High School), to higher education, the privilege I have been granted and have access to is humbling and I recognize that we are all in unique positions to effect impactful change. I don't have a memory that stands out per se; instead, it is more of a feeling that comes to my heart and mind when I reflect on my independent school experiences. I feel a lovely embrace of warmth and belongingness with snippets of memories that come from being read aloud to, cooking with my teachers and classmates, being silly with my teachers, being given the space to explore an area or topic of interest.... I hope to be able to provide the same type of warm and loving memories for my students that I have had the privilege of experiencing.

Thank you, Larissa! We are so lucky to have you teaching our sweet and special Kindergarten students!