Ha Anh Phuong – A global teacher

Believing that “students are entitled to the best education”, Ha Anh Phuong, a teacher at Huong Can High School, Phu Tho province, has created cross-border classes that are benefiting under-privileged students around the world. Phuong’s dedication has helped her to be honored by the Varkey Foundation as one of the "Top 50 excellent teachers worldwide".

Ha Anh Phuong’s dream of being a teacher came from watching a TV drama, in which a teacher in a mountainous area had to go to every student’s house to convince the kids’ parents to let them attend class. “I have learned that education can change people’s perceptions,” recalled Phuong, whose hometown is also in a mountainous area.

Phuong’s dream was further nurtured by her father, who would cut down wood from the forest to make a blackboard for his daughter to practice teaching, and would travel 20km to bring back reference books.

Despite the difficulties in her life, Phuong tried to gain access to foreign languages as much as possible. She watched English speaking news on television, and bought old English newspapers. Phuong spent her whole childhood with the dream of one day becoming a teacher of English to change the perception of the people in her poverty-stricken mountainous area.

Upon graduating from a master’s program at Hanoi University with a distinction degree, Ha Anh Phuong turned down an attractive offer from a Pakistani pharmaceutical company to pursue a Master’s degree in English Pedagogy at Hanoi National University of Education. Leaving behind the astonishment and doubt of teachers, friends and colleagues in the city, Phuong returned home to become a village school teacher.

Ha Anh Phuong is honored by the Varkey Foundation as one of the “Top 50 excellent teachers worldwide”.

Ha Anh Phuong is praised for ranking in global teacher prize’s finalists by the Department of Education and Training of Phu Tho province. Photo: Files

Ha Anh Phuong and her students .Photo: Files

Phuong as a guest at a meeting held at a high school in Hanoi. Photo: Files

Phuong at a lecture recording at Hung Vuong university, Phu Tho. Photo: Khanh Long / VNP

A cross-border class. Photo: Files

In her hometown, Phuong actively participates in professional development sessions on global educational forums. She is also an active member of the Microsoft education community that gathers global teachers to design lessons and participate in weekly professional development.

Huong Can High School, where Phuong teaches, has up to 85% of students from ethnic minorities. That did not stop Phuong from constructing her cross-border classrooms.

Phuong’s English classes are built as cross-border online lessons, connecting the small mountainous classroom of Ha Anh Phuong with places all over the world, from Washington to India.

Phuong discusses with her colleagues about teaching methods. Photo: Khanh Long / VNP

Ha Anh Phuong and her students on the project “Saying no to plastic straws”. Photo: Files

One memorable session in this cross-border classroom was a presentation on the topic “Saying no to plastic straws” that was connected to more than seven countries from four continents. Students of the Muong ethnic group brought to class handmade bamboo straws and confidently presented their project on environmental protection awareness to international friends.

“Looking at my studens, who are communicating in English with confidence sparkling in their eyes, makes me believe they are on their way to become global citizens in the future,” said Phuong.

Phuong also provides free online lessons for under-privileged children in India and South Africa. Her dream now is to create a Youtube spot to offer free English lessons, as well as share professional development activities and projects related to teaching for a sustainable development goal./.

The Global Teacher Prize is an annual 1 million US dollars’ award by the Varkey Foundation to a teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. In 2019, the finalists are selected from over 10,000 nominations and applications from countries around the world.
Story: Thao Vy – Photos: Khanh Long & Files