CHINATOWN — As a younger woman, Carol Hang was faced with a choice of continuing the costly pursuit of a career in academia or getting a job.
Fortunately for the students at St. Therese Chinese Catholic School, she chose the latter.
For the past 23 years, the Malaysian-born instructor at the acclaimed Chinatown school, 247 W. 23rd St., has led eighth-graders through rigorous mathematics lessons.
“All my years I’ve been blessed to work with so many children,” she said.
School documents show that eighth-grade student test scores on the pre-ACT EXPLORE exam, administered to public and private schools across the city, zoomed past their private and public school counterparts.
Despite praise from her faculty colleagues, Hang, 53, was reluctant to take any credit for the improved test scores and school performance.
“The teachers in the younger grades have it tougher. By the time they get to me, [the students] are ready,” she said.
Hang leads her students through a mix of high-tech and low-tech algebra and geometry lessons in an accelerated math program where students learn at a level beyond most other schools.
For the eighth-graders, it's their last stop before the daunting world of advanced high school courses.
But St. Therese principal Phyllis Cavallone said the hundreds of students who’ve passed through Hang’s classroom have “sailed through” their high school math lessons, largely because of Hang’s approach to learning that focuses on student work ethic, parental involvement and boosting struggling students through individual attention.
“I’m a mathematician by my own right and, when I came here, it was such a relief to see what she was doing," Cavallone said. " … I really just sat back and was in awe. … You don’t compromise some rigor and she teaches with that same philosophy.”
The school, recognized in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, is about to launch a fundraising campaign for a major expansion that will take it from a mid-1950s building into a larger, modern facility.
Hang said she has no regrets on her decision not to pursue a doctorate degree in economics and instead go into teaching. She did end up with a master's degree in economics from Southern Illinois University and is now pursuing a master's degree in education at National Louis University.
She has no plans to leave St. Therese.
“There’s no questions she’s an asset to everything we’ve done here and everything we’ve built,” Cavallone said.