PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY WU: Math teachers Huong Tran, dressed as Wonder Woman, (left) and Emily Wu, dressed as a cat, (right) smile for a picture at another teacher’s superhero-themed birthday party. For the past decade, Tran and Wu have celebrated their birthdays as well as family and co-worker birthdays together.

Wu and Tran construct complementary friendship

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Confronted by a class of blank-faced students, math teacher Emily Wu’s heart dropped. Intrusive thoughts plagued her mind with anxiety and unease.

From the corner of her eye, she noticed a lesson plan that one of the senior math teachers, Huong Tran, shared with her that morning. She let out a sigh of relief, and all her fears faded away. Just knowing that there was someone supporting her allowed Wu to smile and confidently teach for the rest of the day. As Wu and Tran spent more time with each other, their workplace relationship slowly transitioned into a sisterhood.

“I was very excited to begin my teaching career, but one of my classes was particularly stressful,” Wu said. “Tran and I both had a very tough fifth period to teach that year, so we would share our days coming up with classroom management skills and strategies to help the students. Most importantly, we made each other feel that we were not alone.”

During a normal school year, the two co-workers walked to and from classes everyday and graded tests regularly together. Inspired by Wu’s devotion and commitment, Tran frequently visited Wu’s class to watch her interact with her students.

“Wu is very passionate as a teacher,” Tran said. “No matter what classes she has, she finds many ways to help the students succeed without compromising her teaching. I have never seen anyone get students talking about math like her.”

As Tran and Wu bonded over their love for exercising, reading, and drinking boba milk tea, their co-worker relationship developed into an everlasting friendship. When not at school, they visited each other’s houses or celebrated holidays and birthdays at restaurants.

“Wu is pretty awesome at making me feel special for my birthday,” Tran said. “One year, she surprised me by calling my husband and arranging our families to meet at a restaurant. Even though we could not spend my birthday together this year, she sent me an extravagant gift to show how much she wanted to celebrate with me.”

Although they share nearly identical values about family, friendship, and work life and have similar personalities, Wu and Tran continue learning from each other on a daily basis. With their lives intertwined, they are able to constantly improve themselves as teachers and as people.

“Both of us agree to tell each other when we see the wrongs that we have done,” Wu said. “This friendship is special to me because it happens at work. Many people told me that it is very difficult to build a true friendship at your job, so I am very grateful that I have found mine with Tran.” 

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