Tacoma math teacher who overcame adversity inspires students



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Posted on May 22, 2014 at 10:07 AM

TACOMA – Foss High School math teacher Robert Yuong inspires students and staff with his math expertise, setting high standards and personal triumph over adversity.

“He’s probably, if not the best teacher in the Western United States, top five and I think he’s the best high school math teacher in state of Washington. I think the rest of the math teachers in the state would agree,” said Bonnie McGuire, Foss High School principal.

At age 10, the Communist Party took over Yuong's homeland of Cambodia. He was beaten and starved and forced to work in labor camps. A few years later, Yuong escaped to Thailand and became a refugee.

He immigrated to the United States where education in Tacoma public schools became his calling.  As a shy teen, Yuong struggled to fit in. But math came easy to him and he even learned English through math.

“Education is everything. During the Communist takeover, they can take your house, take your family, take your property, your money but they can’t take your education from you,” said Yuong.

After graduating from Wilson High School, Yuong studied to become a teacher. 18 years later, he's still paying it forward.

“It's been a very great experience having someone, a role model and adult figure that I admire a lot,” said student Gavin Hawkins.

The math whiz has lead the Foss math team to countless state championships and top rankings, Plus, he's won top teaching honors himself -- KCTS Golden Apple Award for teacher excellence.

“Maybe it's that inner fighting in me that’s helping me today to work with the kids that I don't give up easily, not on me not on them,” said Yuong.