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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

COE Grads 2019: A New Beginning


Cecilia Chung is looking forward to her second commencement ceremony at San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena — and a second chance at fulfilling her dream to be a teacher.

Chung’s first graduation day, as she received her bachelor’s degree in music education in 2006, was a bit of a blur. At the time she had young children in tow and an uncertain professional career on the horizon. This time, she’ll celebrate receiving her bilingual multiple-subject credential with her husband and two grown children cheering her on — and exciting possibilities in her future.

"Now it means so much more because I can actually put what I have learned into practice in my future classroom," Chung said.

This new beginning came after a long road with many twists and turns. Chung was born in South Korea, and at age 9 she moved with her family moved to Ecuador where she became a fluent Spanish speaker. She picked up her third language — English — after moving to the United States at 18 to study at Mesa College and then San Diego State.
At my age in Korea, that's when you start thinking about retirement. If I were there, changing careers at my age would be hard. But it's possible here — and it's possible because I have professors and a support network that has been wonderful.
An avid piano player who still gives private lessons, Chung initially came to SDSU with the goal of becoming a music teacher, but cutbacks in arts education at public schools made her give up on that dream. She worked at Samsung’s maquiladora (binational manufacturing facility) in Tijuana before becoming a stay-at-home mother. For the past seven years, she has worked as an attendance clerk at Viejo Elementary School in Orange County.

That’s where she learned about a grant opportunity that would allow her to take part in the Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education’s online bilingual credential program for professionals already working in the education system. She applied and was accepted in what she calls a “dream come true.”

"At my age in Korea, that's when you start thinking about retirement,” said Chung, whose daughter, Dominique, is currently a speech and language pathology student at SDSU and son, Derrick, was recently accepted to Cal State Fullerton.

“If I were there, changing careers at my age would be hard. But it's possible here — and it's possible because I have professors and a support network that has been wonderful."

Chung now hopes to teach K-6 in a dual-immersion environment where English-speaking Spanish learners and Spanish-speaking English learners collaborate and learn from one another. And, naturally, she plans to inject plenty of music into her lesson plans.

"My plan is to teach history using musical theatre, multiplication using rap,” Chung said. “There are a lot of things I have in mind. Whenever I talk about it, my heart beats harder.”