Instructor Spotlight: Kim Nguyen - Kumon

Instructor Spotlight: Kim Nguyen

Kim Nguyen, Instructor of Kumon Math and Reading Center of Kearny Mesa

Long before becoming a Kumon Instructor in 2010, Kim Nguyen was a Kumon Student herself. Her journey with Kumon began when her mother enrolled both Kim and her sister at a local center in northern San Diego, CA.

After enrolling, Kim’s confidence began to soar, and she started excelling in school. Still to this day, Kim credits her former Kumon Instructor Kayoko Barr with untapping her passion for learning.

“Under Kayoko’s instruction, I began to love reading at a young age and excelled at math throughout my school years,” said Kim. “I have such fond memories of various math challenges the center would hold. I used to love watching my completed worksheets pile up. It was a really satisfying feeling.”

Once Kim entered high school, she began working at the same center she attended as a student. She first started grading worksheets and gradually took on more responsibilities until she became the Lead Assistant – a role she continued while attending college at the University of California San Diego.

Upon graduating with a bachelor’s in sociology, Kim’s former Instructor and mentor, Kayoko Barr, offered her an opportunity that would forever change her life. Her Kumon journey came full circle when she took over Kayoko’s center.

This year, Kim Nguyen, Instructor of Kumon of Kearny Mesa, will be celebrating her 10th anniversary as a Kumon Instructor.

“Since I was a Kumon Student myself, I knew the value of the program and the potential it has to really build up a student’s confidence and abilities,” said Kim.

What inspired you to become a Kumon Instructor?

My experience working at a Kumon Center and being able to interact with students of so many different backgrounds and levels was definitely the biggest inspiration. I love being able to work with students over long periods of time and really see their growth. It’s been an absolute joy to be able to work with a student for multiple years and watch them transition from elementary to middle and high school, and then hear about their college acceptances! Kumon has allowed me to connect with so many wonderful students.

What is it about being an Instructor you enjoy the most? 

I enjoy the interactions with students the most. When I’m helping a student with a problem and things just click in their mind, nothing compares to that feeling of truly helping someone. I love seeing that “Aha!” moment – when they understand the concept and walk away confidently, knowing they don’t need my explanation anymore since they have it themselves. Aside from instruction, moments when we can joke and talk about our favorite Pokémon makes my days so easy and fun.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a Kumon Instructor?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that each student is different and there are no templates for how you should work with or plan for them. Just like there aren’t any shortcuts to getting better at math, there are no shortcuts for working with students. Every student deserves and requires your utmost attention and care in order to develop their confidence and ability.

Can you describe an instruction moment where you made an impact on a student? 

Recently, I challenged a student who had low confidence to try working independently for the day. His automatic reaction to any new concept or correction was usually to go to an assistant for help. I wanted to break this habit and show him that he had the ability to work through math on his own. At the start of class, I spoke to him about how confident I was in his ability, and how he should trust himself and try things on his own. After building him up, he completed his entire long division assignment on his own without asking for help – he even got a perfect score to top it off! Since then, he has become so much more independent and confident, not only in his math, but reading as well.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration would have to be my mother. She holds an incredible amount of kindness, empathy, and optimism that radiates in every aspect of her life – from her work as a nurse, to her role as a mother and friend to me. She has instilled in me the importance of a smile or kind word, and how little acts can change a person’s day. These are all things I’ve tried to carry with me in my role as a Kumon Instructor. With each interaction, whether it’s with a parent or a student, I apply the rule of understanding and empathizing first before anything else.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’ve always loved creating and have dabbled in sewing, painting, drawing, printmaking, and many other crafts. I have a million projects I’ve started and will pick up every so often. Aside from crafts, I also love to read, get outdoors, and play music. I’m in the process of teaching myself how to play the drums, which can be challenging at times. It’s less difficult when I’m able to stick with my daily practice. Kumon taught me that a little practice every day makes all the difference.

What is a fun fact about you that people may not know? 

I’m an amateur ceramicist and love working with clay! Weekly I go to a ceramics studio where I make pitchers, pots, vases, and anything else I can create. It requires a lot of patience, but it’s so rewarding to have a functional piece that you’ve created at the end of the day.

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