You don’t need to have the best high school experience, or come from money to become a successful person. This is especially true of History Teacher Paul Cao.
Growing up in refugee camps all over South East Asia where his parents worked as missionaries did not provide great living conditions, he said. Most of the time he lived in a one-room hut with no roof or played in the forest with his friends, he added.
“I never knew that [my family and I] were poor or that the conditions were not so great,” Cao said. “I thought it was fun to be so close to my parents and my older sister.”
Cao did not have the best time in high school at Long Beach Poly High School, he said. It was a extremely large school with people who viewed him differently since he knew the English language but not the culture, he continued.
“I was bullied, and the teacher didn’t do anything about it,” Cao said. “I always thought, ‘man, this is not right; this is not how society is supposed to be.’ A teacher is supposed to be there to support you.”
There were a few teachers who were not great in terms of supporting Cao, which inspired him to become a teacher himself, Cao said. One of them is a math teacher that made learning fun for students, he added.
“I felt like I had so many bad teachers, and I was kind of motivated by that negative impact,” Cao said.”My parents’ service to society was to work in the refugee camps, [teaching was mine].”
After knowing he wanted to become a teacher, Cao studied at Long Beach State and received a Bachelor’s in History and Education, he said. While working on his Master’s, he taught a preschool class, he continued.
“The state department recruited me, and I decided to do it, because of the opportunity,” Cao said. “I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher, and I felt like I was good at the job right away.”
Cao feels that anyone that came from his situation can turn out like him, he said. He is a Christian and believes that his faith plays a lot into who he is as a person, he added.
“You get out of life what you put into it,” Cao said. “Find joy in the things that make you happy; it’s not worth it to waste time on things you don’t enjoy.”