Full Name: Vina Nguyen
Program(s): PGMT Special Education (and Elementary Education)
Hometown: Alexandria, VA
Graduation Year(s): M.T. Special Education in 2016, B.A. Psychology in 2015 (also from UVA)
Occupation: Special Education Teacher (Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church City, VA)
What initially drew you to UVA?
I was initially drawn to UVA because of its rigorous program, the reputation of supportive staff members, and seeing firsthand how UVA is actively involved with the Charlottesville community. While attending UVA as an undergrad, I admired the Curry School professors and how they were able to connect with their students individually. After taking a Curry class during my fourth year of undergrad, "The Exceptional Learner," I knew I wanted to return for my Master of Teaching in Special Education.
What do you think makes the Curry experience unique?
The Curry experience is unique because the professors are accessible and willing to support their students. While at Curry, I knew that I had professors who were willing to go above and beyond to build relationships with me and to help me become the best teacher I could possibly be. I truly admire their passion to impact the next generation of teachers. I was also fortunate to have been selected as the UVA Curry Fellowship Recipient in Falls Church City Public Schools with grants provided by the Apple Federal Credit Union Education Foundation and facilitated by the Falls Church Education Foundation, which provided me a unique Teacher Internship and employment experience. After building the relationships with the students and community in Falls Church City Public Schools as a Teacher Intern, I was able to continue serving that community as a hired teacher within the school district.
How did your education influence your career path?
In addition to discovering my passion to work with students with disabilities at Curry, I learned about how to understand and value my students as individuals and as learners. My professors influenced me to incorporate numerous evidence-based teaching practices and provided specific feedback as to how I could incorporate these practices in the classroom and how I could collaborate with my fellow teachers. Through these experiences, I have found my niche in the middle school setting, co-teaching and collaborating as a Special Education Teacher, individualizing and differentiating my students' education.
What was the most helpful aspect of your education?
The most helpful aspect of my education at UVA was my professors' willingness to work with me one-on-one to succeed, and how they showed me to connect with my students in a similar way. I was able to begin connecting with students locally as an America Reads Tutor through the Curry School, working with students from kindergarten all the way through middle school, giving me an open mind to work with students of all backgrounds and all ages. The Curry School also provided me with mentors who not only guided me through my practicum and teacher internship experiences, but also guided me through the interview process.
What advice do you have for a prospective student?
First, I advise prospective students to enter the Curry School with an open mind and to reflect with gratitude often. Second, on a daily basis, I am faced with challenges, and I know that the Curry School has provided me the tools I need to be flexible and to overcome these obstacles. Finally, by learning how to understand my professors, coworkers, and students as individuals, I discovered that we are all teachers and learners. Sometimes, as the teacher in the room, I am inclined to think that I know what is best - but by keeping an open mind, reflecting, and empathizing, I realize that my colleagues and students can teach me life lessons as well.