The Kipperman Award recognizes an inspirational staff member at Coronado High School (CHS) each year, as voted on by students in the senior class. This year, the class of 2022 elected Tam Hoang, a professor of English and journalism, to receive this honor.
This award began in 2013, given in honor of Cecelia “Cele” and Lewis “Lew” Kipperman who have dedicated themselves to the Coronado community. “My parents came here in 1948 and developed a store that was part of the community,” said Doug Kipperman, one of Cele and Lew’s three sons. “They were involved in all kinds of advice; the Lions Club, the Soroptimists, the hospital board… all sorts of things. They were deeply rooted in the community.
When Cele Kipperman retired from their company, she returned to teaching where she helped develop and lead the Regional Professional Program (ROP). “She was an amazing listener and what she did changed lives, if only for a moment, because she listened,” Kipperman described of her mother and the impact she had. she had as a teacher. “She would never pass judgment on anyone and believed in content in context. If something was going on with someone, she would ask what was going on and say, ‘Let’s go and figure it out.’ »
When Cele Kipperman passed away in 2011, her sons wanted to create something that would honor the teachers and staff at Coronado. “I taught at CHS for 11 years, I have a good idea of the high standard of teaching there, which at worst is still good,” Kipperman commented. “What my mother did was embody the belief as a teacher that she was there to help students grow and follow their path. My favorite saying was, ‘Trust your heart. She has made such a difference as a teacher, as an ROP director, as a businesswoman and as a mother.
Tam Hoang, who taught at CHS for about 8 years, is another CHS teacher who is now taking on this role. Hoang, too, is finding ways to connect with Coronado students and has certainly made an impact, having now received the Kipperman Award three times since the award’s inception.
“Don’t be corny, but it’s really inspiring to receive this award,” Hoang commented when I asked him what it was like to be chosen by the senior class as the most inspirational staff member. “The past few years have been difficult, for a variety of reasons – the pandemic, difficult discussions around and in education – but it always comes down to the students and their needs, and it feels good to have that focus back.”
“The Class of 2022 is truly remarkable,” Hoang continued. “I had a few in my classes when the pandemic started and none of us knew what was going to happen.” Hoang acknowledges how difficult this period has been for everyone. “I was sailing with my own family, and when I reached out to [my students]they were honest with how they felt and how they handled this kind of mysterious situation.
Hoang recalled a moment from the promotion’s junior year. “We had an AP session at the end of the semester and we didn’t know what the second semester would be like, if we’d be back or not, and when I looked up all the kids had their phones up and on . in the Zoom call. And even though we hated having to zoom in, it was truly magical in that moment,” he described. “More than anything else, students wanted to connect, but in a limited capacity.”
Hoang’s family immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when he was seven years old. He was inspired to become a teacher when he had a conversation with his eighth grade English teacher that helped him find his place in the world. As for his affinity for literature, Hoang said, “I loved telling and hearing stories, big or small, ever since I was a small child in my village. There are stories in everyday life, about our lives; watching someone take on challenges and grow.
When teaching stories, he told me he didn’t have a favorite book to teach, per se, as it boiled down to the core curriculum; discussion and lessons. Hoang mentioned one that stays with him, however; “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. “This unit allows me to tell our story as well as [Vietnam] War. A lot of people don’t understand that it was a civil war in Vietnam, not a US-Vietnamese war, and that the end of the war for America didn’t mean it was the end for the Vietnamese,” a- he explained. Being able to connect with her students on a level that includes her own family history has helped create even more open communication with her students in the classroom.
“For me, I try to live my own life honestly as much as possible and try to apply that to my work and be honest with my students,” Hoang continued. “I think a lot of times we can fall into a script, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In some ways, it’s part of the job, but it’s something CHS students are able to really see, and they appreciate you being honest with them. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, it allows them to be too.
Hoang also mentioned how inspiring he finds CHS students. In addition to English, Hoang teaches a journalism course which produces the student-run school newspaper, The Islander Times. “In 2014, a student in an AP language class wrote a satirical journal for a project, then asked why there was no school journal. The students gathered from there and, with the Coronado Eagle and the Journal, we were able to start publishing,” he said of the journal’s origins as a student club he oversaw.
“It’s an example of the ingenuity and dynamism of our students. when they have an idea and want to do something, they will do it,” Hoang said emphatically. “The Islander Times has evolved over the years and is now an official classroom. We have amazing field trips and guest speakers, and I am so honored to be a part of this student-organized endeavor.
“They are the reason we stay in this profession,” he added of the students. “I’ve been in this field of education for 15 years…I’ve been so inspired by the students of this city and their willingness to connect that I think the next 15 years will be a breeze.”
At the end of our conversation, Hoang concluded, “One thing that has helped me stay in education is the constant reminder to never talk about it about us. We are a vehicle for [the students’] experiences, goals and education. Her words echoed Kipperman’s about her mother’s core belief in teaching that she was there to help students find their way and that teaching is about helping as many people as possible. “With this award, it’s the same,” Hoang continued, “it’s not about me, but rather I’m honored to have been able to be a vehicle for these students.”
While the Kipperman Award gives students a chance to recognize teachers and administrators who have made a difference in their lives, it also invites us to recognize and honor each other as much as possible. “‘Validate people whenever possible,'” Kipperman quotes Cele Kipperman.
“That’s the spirit we try to honor.”
FLIGHT. 112, NO. June 25 – 22, 2022