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Future teacher hopes to make a difference in nearby classrooms and around the world

| Judy Berthiaume

Photo caption: As a Blugold, Maisee Yang found plenty of learning opportunities in and out of the classroom that will help her be successful in her future teaching career. She will graduate from UW-Eau Claire this month with an elementary education major and a teaching English as a second language (TESOL) minor. She hopes to teach fifth-eighth graders, but she also wants to someday teach abroad in Europe or Asia. (Photo by Bill Hoepner)

When Maisee Yang graduates from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire this month, she will take with her a long list of goals that she hopes to accomplish during her future teaching career.

An elementary education major with a teaching English as a second language (TESOL) minor, Yang wants to find a job teaching fifth-eighth graders, but she also wants to someday teach abroad in Europe or Asia, something she says is “on my bucket list.”

While she already knows the Hmong and English languages, she would “love to learn a new language to teach overseas.”

Wherever her teaching career takes her, she wants to incorporate multiple cultures into school curriculums, says Yang, of Cottage Grove, Minnesota.

“Bringing awareness and acknowledging students' cultural backgrounds can raise awareness not only in the classroom or schools but in their communities as well,” Yang says. “I also want to lead an extracurricular activity that I’m passionate about, whether it is a multicultural or math club, student council or yearbook.”

Looking ahead, Yang says she is eager to eventually have student teachers in her classroom to “provide the same opportunities for them as I have now; I want to pay it forward.”

Through her classes and many outside-the-classroom opportunities, UW-Eau Claire has prepared her well to achieve those goals and more, Yang says.  

Being part of UW-Eau Claire’s Hmong Living and Learning Community and Blugold Beginnings program were especially meaningful, Yang says. Both programs taught her about honoring one's identity and networking with other professionals, she says.

The Hmong Living and Learning Community “allowed me to embrace my identity along with individuals who shared the same ethnic identity,” Yang says. It also helped her “connect and empathize with my Hmong people and to build a community and a sense of belonging” in an unfamiliar place, Yang says.

“The best part of the Hmong Living Learning Community was unapologetically embracing my Hmong culture and language in a space that lacks the awareness of Hmong people,” Yang says. “We were able to make a stand for ourselves on a predominately white campus and let others know that we exist.”

Blugold Beginnings also was valuable, helping her meet other students of color who share similar views on education, Yang says. A highlight of being active in the organization was learning to “empathize with people of color and critically understand their stories,” she says.

“We all share similar lived experiences; however, some parts are uniquely different,” Yang says. “Honestly, it taught me that we, the first generation, are a blueprint and must uplift each other.”

Another highlight of her college career was participating in the Civil Rights Pilgrimage, an intercultural immersion experience that takes Blugolds and others to the historical sites of the civil rights movement.

“It allowed all who participated to explore the social justice and history of the civil rights movement,” Yang says. “We got to engage with civil rights activist JoAnne Bland and the youngest original freedom rider, Charles Person.”

Kelly Berg-Schwartz, an academic advisor in the College of Education and Human Sciences, says Yang’s willingness to immerse herself in programs like Blugold Beginnings and the Hmong Living Learning Community helped her excel as a student.

Yang also was willing to use the support programs UW-Eau Claire offers all students, such as academic advising, Berg-Schwartz says.

“Maisee is an outstanding Blugold and example of how participation in UWEC’s support programs can lead to retention, success and graduation,” Berg-Schwartz says.

Yang really “found her niche” once she declared elementary education as her major, Berg-Schwartz says.

She was especially impressed by how well Yang managed her academics during COVID-19, a time when many students struggled.

“During the height of COVID, when so many courses went to online format, I was concerned for her, but it didn’t impact her progress,” Berg-Schwartz says. “We continued to meet virtually for our advising meetings each semester. Her commitment to excel in the classroom and reach her goal never wavered.”

In addition to teaching, Yang says she also hopes to someday “travel the world” to try new cultural cuisines.

While Yang says family “means the absolute most to me,” she also looks for opportunities to meet new people.

“I love listening to people's stories,” Yang says. “I believe the values that someone can share with me through their lived experiences are unique. Having long, authentic, deep and sometimes meaningless conversations with someone are moments that I live for.”

Yang encourages current and future Blugolds to embrace the many opportunities UW-Eau Claire offers and to understand that their time in college is not always going to be a “smooth ride.”

“Explore new places, connect with people of diverse backgrounds, continue to grow and get comfortable being uncomfortable,” Yang says. “Do not limit yourself to anything, whether that is your own beliefs, a course you plan to take, a club on campus or simply conversing with a stranger.”