Yen Chou – An Educator On A Mission
August 23, 2012
By Joe Maniscalco
Whether it’s been in New York City classrooms or on the bustling streets of Flushing where she hopes to represent the newly-drawn 40th District in the New York State Assembly, Yen Chou has dedicated her life to education.
As a high school teacher and an adjunct lecturer at Queensborough Community College, Chou worked for years with students eager to realize their American dreams through hard work and dedication to academics.
Later, as community liaison for former City Councilman and current Assemblyman David Weprin, Chou again found herself in the role of educator. This time, Chou was educating low-wage construction workers about their rights on the job, while also schooling restaurant owners in the labyrinthine regulations that govern New York City merchants.
In each case, Chou distinguished herself as someone the community could come to rely on.
“Reaching out to people is my nature,” Chou says.
Born and raised in Taiwan, the graduate of Dartmouth’s Tuck Executive Education program, came to Flushing, New York in 1987. Less than a decade later, Chou became the director of Aim Academy, a student preparatory institution serving thousands of K-12 kids, which she helped create as well. In 2002, Chou also formed the Chinese American Parent-Student Council [CAPSC] in an effort to help energize community involvement.
“Education has always been the number one issue I’ve been fighting for,” Chou says.
Chou has been both a school board member as well a community education council member, and in 2009 ran for the New York City Council. As the New York State Assemblymember representing the 40th District, she pledges to help increase resources for hard-pressed teachers desperate to help their largely immigrant students succeed beyond mere test scores.
“High School is a very critical point as an immigrant child because basically they are already behind,” Chou explains. “It’s almost impossible to have higher test scores – there’s just no way. Many teachers want to provide help, after school, but it’s just very difficult.”
Chou also opposes Draconian efforts to shut down supposedly poorly performing schools like Flushing High School, and budget cuts that threaten teacher enrichment programs.
And people have begun to take notice. The United Federation has announced that out of a crowed field of four other Democrats (and two Republicans), the union is endorsing Chou’s run for the New York State Assembly.
This latest vote of confidence follows a host of accolades, citations and honors earned throughout an impressive career of public service. Chou is the recipient of the Tandy Technology Scholars Outstanding Teacher Award, Presidential Volunteer Service Award and more. In 2007, the UFT honored CAPSC with the John Dewey Award for its outstanding contributions to public education.
Although her district has seen plenty of development in recent years, Chou points out that many of the low-paid construction workers hired on for development projects all around the community are too often unaware of even their most basic rights as workers.
That’s something she wants to help change.
“The community here is just not educated enough about unions,” Chou says. “There are no unions where they come from. They end up in these situations were developers abdicate any responsibility for them because they are non-union jobs and often off-the-books. Some of these developers are just taking advantage of poor working families new to New York City.”
Chou also looks forward to advocating more forcefully for the growing elderly population living in the 40th District, as well as going to bat for small business owners – both male and female.
“They are also looking for new opportunities, and I need to stand up for them,” Chou says.