Do you remember your favorite teacher? The one whose encouragement and patience made a big difference in your life? The teacher who made you think that you could accomplish anything? That teacher undoubtedly had a heart to teach. And a heart to teach is birthed out of a love for children and a passion to see every child armed with the knowledge and skills necessary to lead a successful and productive life.
ZOE Children’s Homes has such a teacher.
Better known by her nickname “Milk,” Duangcheewan was born the middle child of a middle class Christian Karen farming family in Northern Thailand. During the week, Milk attended the public school in her village through 9th grade. Because the village school only went to the 9th grade, she was sent to live with missionaries in the city of Mae Sariang to attend the last years of high school. During this time away from home, Milk felt sad and lonely. She missed her family and friends and, like all youngsters, wondered “What should I be when I grow up?”
The missionaries she lived with wanted to send her to a Christian university in Bangkok. Her pastor encouraged her to apply for Bible college in Phayao. While applying to those institutions, she also took the exam for the rigorous academic course of studies at Rajabhat University in Chiang Mai hoping to major in English or social studies.
She was soon accepted at Rajabhat, but to her dismay was enrolled as a Thai language major. Having no desire to study Thai, Milk decided that rather than show up at school for classes, she would go back to her home village and get a job.
After just a few days back home, she became very ill. The entire church gathered to pray for her and she recovered. That very night, Milk insisted that her uncle take her on the five-hour drive to the University so she could be in class the next morning. Because she hadn’t begun classes on time, she had to meet with the University president to get admitted. She spent four years learning to teach the Thai language and a required additional one year practicum in the field where she served her home village as a teacher in the school she attended as a girl, teaching grades 4-6 for a semester and 7-8 for another semester.
In retrospect, Milk is grateful that she decided to study Thai. For it was while she attended University that she met a fellow student named Witt. After this fellow graduated, he came to work at ZOE and encouraged her to apply for a job here as well. She did and was hired in May 2010. (While we may never know if he had ulterior motives in steering her to ZOE, Milk and Witt exchanged wedding vows on January 28, 2011.)
Her first assignment at ZOE was to teach the kids Thai. And what an important job! Many of the children at ZOE have only a rudimentary grasp of Thai when they arrive and are unable to speak it clearly or properly, having come from villages where the primary language is Karen, Shon, Lisu, or one of any number of other tribal tongues. And who better to teach these boys and girls than a university-trained professional with in-class teaching experience who is fluent in Karen, English, and Thai?
Since then, Milk’s portfolio at ZOE has expanded to include serving as chief liaison between ZOE and the public schools that ZOE children attend. Integrating a rescued child into a new school can be a very challenging process. Some have had very little formal education while others have never darkened a schoolhouse doorway. For older children, the challenge is magnified. ZOE has a number of children older than 10 whose first time at school was only after being rescued and safe in the ZOE Children’s Homes.
Ensuring that ZOE’s children get a high quality education is a priority for us.
To make certain that our children have assistance with integrating into school and with their school work after hours and on weekends, we hired Milk.
Teacher Milk has worked tirelessly with ZOE’s children and the results “speak for themselves”. When she started, Milk did initial assessments and within three months there was significant improvement in test scores with an average increase of 10 percent in reading and 13.5 percent in writing. Though it is a big challenge, Milk takes encouragement from her favorite Scripture: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Milk tells us she is impressed with the healthy, loving relationships she sees at ZOE, how everyone helps one another, and our family worship. She loves ZOE’s mission, leadership, staff, and most of all, the children.
For our part, we couldn’t be more impressed with Milk. And we’re glad she has a heart to teach!