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Inspired by a teacher, author now helps HISD students get published

2013 July 31
by HISD Communications

In this week’s I am HISD, which features district students, graduates, and employees, writer Vuthy “Woody” Kuon talks about when he started believing in himself, what his teaching philosophy is, and how he is helping HISD students become published authors, too.

You attended White Elementary, Sharpstown Middle, and Bellaire High schools. What are your most inspiring memories from those campuses?

Vuthy Kuon

When I got to America, I was three years old. I started kindergarten and didn’t speak the language, so I didn’t really understand what was going on. My grades weren’t good; a whole bunch of checks and minuses. I started acting up as well. We moved to the Sharpstown area and I started going to Ed White Elementary School in the second grade. My teacher asked me to read a book called “Pug” and I was sure I was going to get criticized because I wasn’t great with punctuation. I just decided to do it as quick as I could and sit down. Instead of criticizing me, my teacher encouraged me and said, ‘Wow, you’re a very fast reader,” and put me in the Blue Bird group. From then on, a light bulb went off in my head that I’m not stupid. I’m a good reader and I started believing in myself.

How do you get students hooked? How do you relate your story to your teaching and public speaking?

I used to be a teacher as well. I taught art and photography at a private school in Fort Worth.

I love teaching. My teachers inspired me. I love figuring out ways to inspire other kids as well. I know how important that is in a child’s life. My thing is, I always try to focus on the basics and fundamentals first. Then, I also teach advanced, unique concepts, and things that can be fun to get the kids to think on a higher, professional level as well. Then they can fill in the blanks in between.

What would you tell people hoping to follow in your footsteps?

I would tell them that it’s very important to learn from other people. Be nice to their teachers, because teachers have a wealth of knowledge that they can share with them. And if you’re nice to people, then people are more willing to share with you. Work on yourself. Work on your attitude and the way you treat people. Work on your likability. If you’re likeable, people will want to help you. And if you’ve got a lot of people helping you, you accelerate your growth that much faster.

Use your resources like libraries and bookstores. Learn from the people who’ve done it, and then try to use your brain and figure out how to do it better. I try to figure out what works and then I try to make it work even better. In this country, you have so many opportunities to make a lot of money in a short period of time. Successful people, that’s what they do. They know how to maximize their time so that, not only can they make more money, but they also have free time for family, fun, coaching…doing the things that you really enjoy doing.

Kids should look more into the future. Not just thinking about themselves in the here and now, but what kind of hard work they need to do, the preparation. Try they plan out their lives a little bit when they’re young. They can really make out a good game plan for success in the future.

You’ve written, illustrated and/or published at least 30 books and published another 75 written by children (including HISD students), as a part of Every Child An Author. What are you working on now?

My latest venture is called “Every Child An Author.” It’s a project where we try to encourage kids to love writing, books and reading, by helping them become published authors themselves. We actually work with schools and they’ll pick a grade level. Each grade level will have their book professionally published, a professionally illustrated cover, professionally designed, and an ISBN number. It’s going to look very professional. I try to encourage the kids. They can still be kids and do good work. They don’t just have to have a book that’s a bare book that they would do very kid-like, unprofessional drawings on and that’s all they can do. We can actually spend the time and resources and make a very professional book that they can be very proud of so they can link their names and associate their names with quality. They get the chance to have the author experience and have hundreds of people lining up for their autograph.

If you know a graduate, student, employee, or other member of Team HISD who should be featured here, please email us at info@houstonisd.org.
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