Local Hero: Dr. Gay Q. Yuen

Dr. Gay Q. Yuen

"The voices of immigrant children and adults should not be silenced just because they have yet to learn English. When a child's home language and culture is not accepted or respected, that child feels valueless. Schools are suppose to be safe havens and therefore should not continue to give these messages of non-acceptance to non-English speaking children."

Dr. Gay Q. Yuen's involvement in education was a direct result of her own educational experience as a 1st-grade student at Castelar Elementary School in Los Angeles' Chinatown. Although she had just arrived from Hong Kong and knew little English, teachers often scolded and forbid her from speaking her native tongue at school, contributing to her sense of confusion and alienation growing up.

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Now, Dr. Yuen has made it her life's mission to make the educational experience of immigrant children a positive one. She's a professor of California State University's Charter College of Education, where Dr. Yuen directs the Pacific Rim Institute. Dr. Yuen is also one of Southern California's first bilingual Cantonese educators and regarded as a leading authority of bilingual education, second-language development, and minority education. Throughout her 30-year career, Dr. Yuen has instructed elementary school students to graduate students, coordinated and managed bilingual programs for LAUSD and the Alhambra Unified School District, and was instrumental in drafting the writing standards that has helped guide the education and assessment of students and teachers, bilingual teacher certification standards, and EL standards for instruction.

In addition to her professional work, Dr. Yuen volunteers her time and resources to community organizations such as Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP), where she raised funds for scholarships for Asian American students, Asian Youth Center (AYC), East West Players and the Chinese American Museum of Los Angeles (CAM). She has also served on national and state professional organizations such as Asian Pacifics in Higher Education (APAHE), California Associate for Asian-Pacific Education (CAFABE) and National Association for Asian and Pacific Education (NAAPAE). Dr. Yuen was appointed to the Los Angeles Mayor's Council of Education Advisors to help lower dropout rates and truancy in the public schools.

Dr. Yuen was recognized with the "Teachers Making a Difference Award" in 2008 from the Cherry Blossom Festival of Southern California. In 2007, CSULA's Charter College of Education named her a "Distinguished Educator" and in 2005 CSLU recognized Dr. Yuen as its 2005 "Distinguished Woman of the Year." Congresswoman Hilda Solis named Dr. Yuen as one of the twelve "Phenomenal Woman" of the 32nd Congressional District in 2004.

Dr. Yuen has published articles in the National Forum of Teacher Education Journal, Diversity in Teacher Education, and the Journal of California Politics and Policy.

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