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Student Profile: Damian Tong

Student Profile: Damian Tong

Damian Tong’s passion for teaching is evident in everything he does. Whether as a student at The University of Texas at Austin, or as a member of the Army Reserves, it’s a vital part of his life, and has been since high school.

“My high school chemistry teacher was a huge influence on me and sparked my interest in science and teaching,” Tong explains. “He saw that chemistry was second nature to me and eventually asked me to help tutor struggling students during lunch.” As with science, teaching seemed a natural fit for Tong, but he chose not to pursue education in college and registered as a pre-med major instead.

That soon changed however, when as a freshman in David Laude’s introductory chemistry class, he learned about the College of Natural Sciences UTeach Outreach program. “I considered joining the program at the time because I thought, if medical school didn’t work out, maybe I could become a chemistry teacher,” Tong explains. “So, I signed up my freshman year and just loved it—I’ve participated in UTeach Outreach ever since.”

Nervous and intimidated at first, he says being in front of a full classroom was a far cry from one-on-one tutoring and, like most new teachers, expected it would take much time and experience to feel comfortable. After only a few weeks though, Tong says he overcame his anxiety and was hooked on his students and teaching.

“To discover how much the students loved the program and to see how they came to class so motivated, was a truly neat experience,” Tong remembers. “Even now, the best part is to hear from teachers how much the students anticipate my visit. I look forward to it every week.”

Now in his fourth year with the program, Tong has expanded his role in UTeach Outreach to lead chemistry circuses, which are geared toward districts where science achievement isn’t always high. They provide an opportunity for parents and their children to learn about science in a fun and casual environment. For Tong, the circuses demonstrate one of the many ways teachers can reach out and positively affect the community.

“UTeach has given me so much respect for teachers because it’s allowed me to see first hand, everything teachers do to educate their students, which is difficult for most people to fully appreciate,” he says. “Teachers put all their hearts into their work. It’s a cliché, I know, but teachers really are the keys to the future.”

A member of ROTC and the U.S. Army Reserves since his sophomore year, Tong was compelled to join after 9/11, when he decided military service was something he “owed his country.” Though the contrast between grade school classrooms and the military couldn’t be greater, Tong sees many similarities. “ROTC and the Reserves require leadership and it’s important for me to teach younger cadets and soldiers effectively,” he explains. “I’m able to apply in the field everything I’ve learned in the classroom.”

As for life after college, Tong is planning for active duty and a career in the Army. Eventually he’d like to become a science teacher and coach in middle school, where he believes students change the most and his impact on their lives would be greatest.

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Comments 2

 
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