Melissa Chin

Melissa Chin, born in Laos, escaped to Thailand, elementary school principal for Elk Grove Unified School District.

Video Timeline

Note: To listen to a specific clip, move the slider on the video to the designated clip time listed below.

00:00 – Introduction

00:4 – Clip 1
Melissa discusses why her father moved her family to Thailand and their immigration experiences. She recounts how her father was trained by the CIA to become a teacher/trainer on how to fight the communists. She also describes how her father was influenced to settle in the U.S. once he reached the camps, as well as their journey to the U.S.

07:16 – Clip 2
Shares her reaction to arriving in the U.S. including the different families that they stayed with until they settled in Portland, Oregon. She also shares what it was like in her elementary school and their apartment complex, which was home to several Mien families.

11:25 – Clip 3
Further reflects on what her elementary school was like and how she overcame the language barrier and how her confidence began to grow in her school work, thanks to her 1st grade teacher. She also shares her struggles with her 2nd grade teacher, who didn’t know how to communicate with her due to the language barrier, and the problems that occurred at the school due to the influx of Southeast Asian students. She explains her role helping the new students adapt to the English language.

15:18 – Clip 4
Explains how her parents had a hard time adapting to American society. She also explains how her parents took ESL classes in order to better understand U.S. lifestyles, which differed from those in Laos. She further explains about how her family learned the importance of schooling and how they struggled to keep up on classwork.

19:58 – Clip 5
Reflects on how difficult it was to combat the lack of diversity within their neighborhood and how the Mien families banded together to support each other. She also reflects on the racism she faced within their community and their schools.

23:00 – Clip 6
Recalls the difficulty of keeping up on school work in junior high school due to the increased rigor in secondary education and the lack of assistance she received throughout her experience. She recalls the impact on her relationship with her parents, since they couldn’t assist with her education.

25:25 – Clip 7
Describes her secondary education experience and her inquiry into the idea of college. She also describes how she found her future husband at 17 and the process of her eventual marriage.

30:02 – Clip 8
Addresses the issue about how teachers need to get to know their students’ backgrounds in order to understand their particular population of students and their cultural experiences. She also addresses the role of administrators in understanding the cultural backgrounds of both staff and students so individuals feel comfortable in asking for help.

36:30 – Clip 9
Discusses the importance of using these interviews in the classroom because they connect with the cultural backgrounds of different ethnic groups, which will encourage others to open up about their family experiences/stories.

40:11 – Clip 10
Reflects on what it was like to watch TV (cartoons) for the first time on the airplane.

41:18 – Clip 11
Melissa recalls some of the illnesses she and her sisters faced coming to the U.S., as well as difficulties with the introduction of new foods.

43:02 – Clip 12
Discusses how families would sponsor each other to help them adjust to American society, and further discusses difficulties introducing new foods to their diets.

44:44 – Credits

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