9th-grade science teacher, cosplayer, and anime lover, Cayla Pang is starting her second year at Kalani after a successful yet challenging first year in 2020-21.
Before coming to Kalani, Pang worked as a lab scientist in a neuro-pharmaceutical lab. She fell in love with teaching after working as a substitute teacher.
“I just really felt that I liked it a lot better than just researching in a lab,” she says. “And it was really fulfilling. Even now, I still feel like this is the best career choice ever.”
Pang’s first year at Kalani during the COVID-19 pandemic thoroughly tested her skills as a new teacher, and she describes it as “really scary.”
“I think nothing could’ve prepared me to go the full distance as a first-year teacher,” Pang said. “I had no teacher aide or mentor teacher, so I think that was difficult for me.”
Some of these difficulties included learning how to utilize online learning platforms and connecting with students.
“I think the most challenging thing about my job last year was the social aspect because I felt like I was unable to really be there for the students in the way that they needed me to be there for them,” she says.
Pang explains that it was difficult to see the potential in intelligent students who lacked motivation at home. She says many of her students were not comfortable reaching out for help because they didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her in person. Consequently, she was unable to provide them with the assistance they needed.
Fortunately, she adapted to these circumstances with the transition to hybrid learning in the 4th quarter of last year.
“I tried reaching out to students more during the virtual semester, but as we came back in-person, I felt like the students were much more comfortable with me now that they got to know me face to face,” she says.
She was able to foster better relationships with students like Senna Keifer (10), who liked how Ms. Pang’s class was “fun and engaging.”
She felt that Pang was supportive of her and her classmates as well as passionate about their learning.
“She is funny, sweet, and generous,” Keifer said
Rin Isoe (10) was a student in Ms. Pang’s 9th-grade biology class last year. She describes Pang as “caring,” “open,” and “relatable.”
Even with the social barriers of online learning, Rin felt that Ms. Pang “created a safe learning environment for everyone” and was always open to answering her questions.
Pang explains that the highlight of her teaching career so far has been getting to know her students.
“They’re all really diverse and have so much potential and bring so much to the table,” she continues. “I just really love that about my job.”
Pang can connect with her students personally through the social media app Tik Tok. She gained a following of over 52,000 after posting a video sharing her experiences as a first-year teacher. While her popularity online was accidental, she says she’s grown to enjoy using this platform to connect.
“Now I actually really like it because I think it, first of all, helps me express myself,” Pang says. “I have almost no free time to do anything to express myself now that I have a teaching job full-time, so it allows me to kind of like, I guess, express my interests in that way. It also helps me relate to students a lot more.”
Pang admits that she learned a lot from the challenges of her first year, both socially and technically.
“I actually feel like the tools that I learned during the pandemic are going to affect my job and help me improve for the rest of my career,” she explains. “I became really tech-savvy in comparison to my abilities last year. I’ve actually felt that like a lot of the virtual tools that I used, I’ll continue to use them.”
Still, she feels that she will have to make up for the skills she couldn’t foster while teaching virtually.
“I definitely know that there are things that I didn’t get to practice last year like having a full class, classroom managing, and being stern and hard with deadlines,” She admits.
Pang was also able to foster relationships with other Kalani freshman teachers, like 9th grade English teacher Jan Omura.
“Working with Pang was really fun,” Omura says. “I love the different perspectives she brings to our planning meetings. I’m OLD, so it’s always great to have a young teacher to collaborate with.”
This year she’ll work on finding a balance between her online teaching habits and what it will take to succeed with a full class.
“I’m looking forward to just becoming more comfortable with all of the things that go into teaching and just improving myself and reaching my goals for my career,” Pang says.