Yung Kincer, Alabama Teacher of the Year
Photo: David and Rhonda Wilson/Fountain City Portraits
As a Vietnam War refugee, Yung Kincer knows firsthand what it's like to experience a life of seemingly insurmountable struggles.

"The story of how I came over to the United States is one that might have come from the movies," she says. The day that Yung's mother found out that South Vietnam lost the war, she tried to escape their village with Yung and her infant brother in tow. Instead, mother and daughter were separated. "I was a scared little girl standing there in the crowd clutching a transistor radio and led by relatives to an awaiting boat crowded with people desperate to flee to freedom."

In the United States, Yung lived with relatives who did not believe in showing affection or encouragement. Her saving grace, she says, was school.

"I will always honor and cherish my teachers, who all loved me and provided me the emotional support that I did not get at home."

Now, Yung says her greatest contribution to education is her life story. "I have had to overcome tremendous struggles, and it took me a long time to achieve success," she says. "I want my students to see that they can rise above whatever it is that is holding them down and accomplish whatever goals they set for themselves."

What's more, Yung's experience has taught her that the oppression of a person begins with the lack of education and that education is the key to self-empowerment. "Too many students think that going to school is just a way to get a job," she says. "It's about much more than that. [Education] frees one from being a follower to becoming a self-led person. If you can think for yourself, you won't allow others to think for you."


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