Notorious for giving pop quizzes, math teacher Huong Tran maintains her reputation through her unique teaching style and by being the only Advanced Placement (AP) calculus teacher on campus.
Tran is known for the high AP test pass rates of her students and her lively yet challenging classroom atmosphere. Last year, 30 out of 34 students in her calculus BC class passed the AP test with a 3 or higher.
“I think because this is an AP class there’s a certain curriculum I have to get through, and I want a certain amount of weeks to review for the AP test,” Tran said. “After that I just divide it up like, How do I fit in every chapter and how many weeks can I spend on [each]?”
Although Tran develops a close relationship with her students through shared inside jokes and references, she remains strict in order to keep her students on track.
“I think there has to be a balance,” Tran said. “I think people work harder for you if they respect you. I know I’m super scary but at the same time I think the past year students appreciate that I prepare them because I have very high expectations for them.”
Within Tran’s classroom, students are organized into groups of four, with a rotation between every individual student as the designated speaker each week. This classroom layout encourages her students to work together.
“When you go to college, you’re going to have a hard time with the professors,” Tran said. “Not a lot of professors care about your education the way your high school teachers do, so you learn a lot through your peers.”
Although her calculus students know Tran’s current teaching style well, Tran said she has changed as a teacher over time.
“I remember when I was a brand new teacher and when a student came for tutoring, I’d be like ‘What? I taught you this. What don’t you understand?’” Tran said. “Then throughout the years, I was like ‘Well, maybe they went to tutoring because they didn’t understand so that’s why they’re here.’”
Tran said as time went on, she learned to be more patient and looked at ways to teach her students different strategies when they needed help. Senior Brian Nguyen, a two-year Tran student, said that her methods kept him engaged in class.
“Ms. Tran is very rigorous in her teaching style,” Nguyen said. “Constant pop quizzes and homework problems which make you apply mechanics you’ve learned long ago will keep you on your toes in her class. Though slightly stressful, it is a style that works.”
Among the many pop quizzes that her students get, students can always expect to receive what Tran calls an “opportunity,” a pop quiz, when it is a minimum day.
“I think it is important to be in class,” Tran said. “I know students tend to say ‘Oh, it’s a minimum day. What’s a teacher going to do in 30 minutes?’”
Tran’s pop quizzes also serve as an incentive for students to attend school because the quizzes cannot be made up.
“As much as it tortures them, it tortures me too,” Tran said. “They only do one quiz while I grade all of the quizzes. At the same time, I think [my students] appreciate me because they learn from their experience.”