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EDUCATOR PROFILE: REBECCA WONG

Posted November 13, 2018

Rebecca Wong is an After School Learning Program Coordinator at Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center in San Francisco, and a former Coordinator at Bay Area Community Resources, where she led NBA Math Hoops programming at Ulloa Elementary School. Rebecca has been selected as a 2016-17 and 2017-18 Learn Fresh All-Star Educator, and currently serves on the Learn Fresh Educator Advisory Board. Last season, she guided one of her students to the NBA Math Hoops National Championship in Detroit, MI. The following are condensed excerpts from a conversation with Learn Fresh Development and Communications Specialist, Sumner Becker.

How did you first hear about NBA Math Hoops?

[Current Learn Fresh staff-member] Colleen Serafini, who was with Bay Area Community Resources (BACR), introduced me to the program. Colleen said to me, ”Hey, here’s this awesome program, if you want to learn more about it go to this training!” And from there it kind of took off. I talked with the principal and made it work for the school day, so that all the kids in fourth or fifth grade could have access to the program. That’s where we became really successful and we were able to have 125 kids almost every single year participating. I led the program at Ulloa—I went in earlier during my normal work day, and did some time during the school day. Kids would get pulled out of their classrooms to come to the half-hour Math Hoops class once a week.

Can you tell me about Ulloa Elementary School and the surrounding community?

We are a Title I school—that means over half of our families are qualified for free or reduced lunch. For a lot of our students, English is their second language. We have a Chinese bilingual track from kindergarten all the way through fifth grade, including for some of the families who just want their children to be exposed but may not learn the language in its entirety. There are a lot of cultural events and it’s just a really large community; we have four classrooms for every grade, but our classrooms are maxed at 24, so we have small classrooms sizes, which is great for learning. The school community is amazing, PTA is super involved, afterschool programs are involved as well—it’s great to be at the school. I miss it a lot!

Tell me about English Language Learning students and their experience with Math Hoops.

I think what I learned most and what I really enjoyed was seeing many of our quieter kids who maybe just transferred in that year or the year before, really getting an opportunity to socialize in a different academic setting. The way that we paired them up with someone who was more outgoing really made them feel more comfortable in our Math Hoops community. Math is something that is difficult for a lot of our students, but seeing their confidence improve and their willingness to want to keep trying is great.

[It was also great] when we had some family events that included Math Hoops, where the kids got to teach their parents and younger siblings how to play. Just seeing the families bond over this game—we had extra games after a couple seasons so I let some kids take them home. The feedback that you get from the families, saying, “This game is awesome, thanks for giving us something for our family to do,” is special.

Our site also received some awesome incentives, like giving parents and families a chance to go to Oracle Arena. A lot of these kids have never been outside of our school community, let alone San Francisco. Seeing their families bond and all the families come together was great.

What’s your most memorable NBA Math Hoops moment?

For me, it was being able to to tell my student that he was going to the National Championship in Detroit. He started off Math Hoops as one of the cockier kids because he already knew how to play basketball. But seeing how it helped shape him as a friend and as a classmate was great. A lot of our kids, watching him be more patient and seeing how he stepped up in school, saw him as a role model. Then watching him represent our community in Detroit was great. It was amazing to see his reaction [to the news] and how the hard work he put into everything really paid off. Getting to spend time with him and his mom in Detroit was great.