Kaying Thao-Yang

Born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, teaching in the Elk Grove Unified School District and currently living in Sacramento, California.

Video Timeline

00:00 – Introduction

00:45 – Clip 1
Describes first memory of Thai refugee camp: going to school, at age 3 1/2 with her uncle (who was 2 years older). Teacher disciplined them harshly for being late to class.

02:00 – Clip 2
Explains opportunity to learn the Thai language by attending school.

02:28 – Clip 3
Parents spoke little about their lives in Laos and their escape to the Thai refugee camp. Remembers dad seeking sponsors to come the U.S. Dad went every day to arena and waited to be called. Having your number called was only way you could leave refugee camp, head to Bangkok, and come to the U.S.

04:40 – Clip 4
Recalls day they found out her dad’s brother was willing to sponsor them to come to France. Next day, they returned to the arena – where her dad’s name was called to go to the U.S. The family immediately packed and prepared to get on the bus (to Bangkok).

06:05 – Clip 5
Spent at least 2 years in refugee camp.

06:28 – Clip 6
Parents have shared bits and pieces of their escape story. Understands that the memories are still painful.

07:36 – Clip 7
Recalls being in Bangkok – her first experience to stay in a hotel – with running water and toilets that flush. Also recalls lining up to take bus from Bangkok to airport. Gentleman in front of them was advised to get rid of his opium pipe. Remembers hearing the splash from the discarded pipe.

11:08 – Clip 8
Describes boarding the plane – and having her first experience with eating peanuts. Flew to San Francisco to Spokane, Washington. Sponsored by Lutheran Church. Describes culture shock for parents being uprooted and coming to something so different. They were headed to Post Falls, Idaho, where they would be the only Hmong family.

15:47 – Clip 9
Explains how difficult being in Idaho was for her parents, starting with climate. It was good for the children, but bad for parents, who began to feel homesick. They were only Hmong family in Post Fall, Idaho. Parents became depressed.

20:09 – Clip 10
Believes that few people in Post Falls understood where her family was from or what they went through to get to Idaho. Recalls first experience in EL class (taught by her sponsor).

25:49 – Clip 11
Recalls dad injuring himself in greenhouse where he worked. From Post Falls, Idaho, they moved to Spokane, Washington, where they lived for a year. Family packed belongings into vehicles and headed to California. Remembers arriving in California and being struck by the intense heat.

30:19 – Clip 12
Lived in Marysville before moving to Willows, CA, a town without much diversity. Teachers had no idea where Kaying was from.

32:27 – Clip 13
Believes not knowing where they were from was not uncommon for Hmong peers. Started studying her own history when she started college.

34:46 – Clip 14
Recognizes parent’s courage in getting the family to U.S. They had to shield children from being killed while fleeing Laos.

38:23 – Clip 15
Recalls three upstanders in Post Falls who crossed cultural barriers and accepted them as part of their family. Going through school, once she left Idaho, she knew she was different. In California, especially Marysville, she had Hmong peers, so it was clear she was part of a different culture and language. She took CELDT test – and passed.

43:07 – Clip 16
Describes what it is like being a faculty member at a school where no one knows her history.

47:18 – Clip 17 – Speaks as a teacher on the importance of getting to know your students. What is the culture they come from? When you have the cultural understanding, students tend to open up more.

50:01 – Clip 18
Talks about teaching the novel “The Outsider” to her middle school students. She relates to the story because growing up and going to school – in California – she felt like an outsider. Unlike Idaho, it was in California where she experienced a lot of racism.

54:25 – Clip 19
Shares her opening exercise with her 9th graders using the “I Am” poem format.

55:43 – Clip 20
Reflects on importance of teachers having an open door policy, where students can come in any time and talk to you. Teachers can help students find their voice and share their stories – or find the courage to raise a hand and speak up during class.

1:00:17 – Credits

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