Ms. Angkham received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology from San Jose State University. While pursuing her academics, she also helped build schools in Mexico, provided Katrina Relief to residents of New Orleans, and presented at various academic conferences throughout the country.
After college, she found her love of teaching and was a classroom teacher for grade 1 and grades 5 - 8. After a decade of being in the classroom, she’s ready for her next adventure: supporting students’ academics and overall well-being as a Dean of Students!
“I love that BASIS Independent Silicon Valley provides the students with so many opportunities,” she says, “and I’m so excited to be a part of their developmental years in which they are learning, growing, and becoming wonderful human beings.”
How would you describe your position to a new incoming student and parent?
The Dean of Students is first and foremost an advocate for the students. I interpret that as helping my students become the best version of themselves they can be. To that end, I provide support to them in their challenges and growth, be they academic, social, emotional, or behavioral.
Academic support comes in the form of running grade checks and enrolling students into weekly meetings with me if they are struggling in multiple classes. During those meetings, I help them organize and prioritize their tasks, track patterns in their academics, and encourage new habits that will help them succeed. Later in the year, I also help students with course selections and with planning out their high school curriculum.
I provide social and emotional support to our students in situations in which they need help resolving any interpersonal conflict or even if they just need a compassionate ear. I also teach students ways of managing their emotions and to improve their communication skills with their peers, teachers, and parents as necessary.
When it comes to challenges in behavior, such as when students break school policies, my role is to provide consequences that are remedial as well as punitive. Yes, cheating on an exam may result in a 0, but it is also important to understand the circumstances that led the student to making the choices they did, and to help guide them in reflecting and in making better choices in the future.
We have new students join our program in grades 8 and 9 every year. How do you help them transition into our program?
All incoming grade 8 and 9 students will go through a New Student Orientation with me before the first day of school in which I meet with them and their families. During this meeting, I welcome them to our school, explain my role, review major school policies and procedures, and answer any questions they have. At this time, I also inform our teachers of who our new students are so that they can give those students more guidance as necessary.
When school starts, new students will continue meeting with me in a group setting for a few weeks so that I can check in to see how they’re doing and help them navigate through their campus life at BISV. These New Student Meetings are also a way for them to get to know one another and to start building a social circle with a few familiar faces.
After those New Student Meetings are over, anyone who needs additional support will continue to meet with me one-on-one. I will check in with everyone else periodically throughout the rest of the year.
How can new incoming students prepare themselves in the summer for our program?
Summer is definitely a great time to begin the transition to the BASIS Curriculum! I would recommend that students first take a look at our summer courses. Specifically, taking a world language course or one (or more!) of our science courses is beneficial but not required, especially if any of those topics are unfamiliar to the student. If a student is comfortable with their world language and with all three sciences (biology, physics, and chemistry), then they can consider taking a for-credit art or P.E. course. This way, for incoming grade 9 students, they can get one graduation requirement completed early, leaving room for another elective they are interested in taking during the regular academic year.
Students should also take a look at the Jumpstart Packets our teachers put together at the end of the school year. These packets give recommendations as to what material students should review over the summer so that they can start the year strong. I also recommend looking at the jump-start packets of other grades to better understand the progression of content from year to year.
In the last few weeks leading up to the first day of school, students should start gathering their materials: book bag, lunch bag, notebooks, binders, textbooks, folders, writing implements, locker organization tools and decoration, etc. They should tidy up their rooms and work spaces, and start making plans on how they will stay organized this year. Parents should keep a close eye on ParentSquare (our school's communication portal) posts even during the summer since updates and announcements on course materials and events will be released during those months.
Finally (and perhaps most importantly!), students should spend at least part of their summer break relaxing, recharging, and simply enjoying life. Yes, being productive is important; at the same time, the students who start school relaxed and with 100% of their energy and motivation will be more successful than those who begin the school year burnt out from their many summertime commitments.
What are some key practices that you find students doing that help them transition more smoothly?
Students who take to heart the guidance given to them and who utilize the resources that are available will always have a smoother transition. The guidance will come from their dean, their teachers, and other school staff, all of whom draw upon years of experience and observation of how students have succeeded in the past. Resources such as teachers’ office hours and peer tutoring are highly underutilized, even though we know that students who take advantage of those opportunities tend to show improvement.
Can new students balance their school life and social life? If so, how?
Absolutely! One of the best ways for students to have balance in their life is to not over-commit. I cannot stress this enough. I think it’s wonderful that so many of our students come to our school incredibly motivated with desires to take as many AP classes as possible, join a different club for every day, and participate in school events on top of anything else they might be doing outside of school or with their families. However, we very much want our students to not only succeed, but also thrive, and in order to do that, students must be realistic about their time.
We first help students in being realistic when we advise them with course selection. Based upon their outside commitments and the projected workload, we advise students on which classes they can and should take. Sometimes, that means telling a student they cannot take two electives, or that more than one AP class is simply too many for that student.
When the school year starts, students must estimate how much time each class’s homework will take them, and adjust their extracurricular commitments accordingly. It’s also important to remember that many of our teachers’ office hours are after school, so students whose after-school time is all filled up will not be able to get help from their instructors when the need arises. For their first year, I recommend that new students join no more than two after-school clubs. This will allow them time to get their work done, plus go to special events and spend time outside of school doing things they love (and maybe even get enough sleep and exercise!).
Time management is another skill students should develop early in order to have more control over their days. To start, they will need to be organized with how they are writing down notes and assignments. Students should have a definitive system of how they are storing loose papers, and they should be using our CJs (communication journals) to keep track of deadlines and to-dos. After the organization comes prioritization. Though it is human nature to push aside more difficult or tedious work until later, students should actually start with those assignments, and they should finish them as soon as they can. If efficiency is an issue, they should experiment with taking breaks, and setting time limits and alarms to keep themselves on track. Organization + Prioritization + Efficiency = Time Management = More Time for the Social Stuff.
Can you share an anecdote about one of your students who may have struggled, and how they finally had that "a-ha" moment in their school life?
One of my new students last year was struggling in their classes and was overall feeling incredibly unhappy and disconnected. In our meetings, we focused on delineating between what they could and what they could not control in their life. Certain things that were making them unhappy actually belonged in the “I cannot control this” category, and that included grades other students were earning (they were constantly comparing themselves to others) and how others felt about them (they had recently had a friend break-up). As my student added items to their “I can control this” category, we talked about how to take action to improve those items, and how to turn the focus away from that which they could not control.
I have to admit that with this student, there was never a big “a-ha!” moment. It was a slow and steady work-in-progress with some backslides along the way. However, as the year went on, I saw the student become brighter and happier, feeling more comfortable in their skin, and being more brave and conscientious in their choices. One of the indicators to me that this student was truly blossoming was when I saw them in a school production. The way they so enthusiastically played their character was such a change from the quiet, nervous student I had met the year before, and I knew they had been stalwartly traveling on the path to becoming a better version of themselves.
What's your favorite part of your job?
It is lovely (and bittersweet!) to see my students grow up over and over again. I see how every new class’ experiences are both the same as all my former students’, and yet unique. Helping guide them through adolescence, laughing at their silly jokes, learning new dances and slang, comforting them through hard times—all these experiences give me purpose and keep me young. I am so fortunate to constantly have opportunities to be the adult that I had needed when I was a teenager, to all the students who come through our halls.
BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is a grades 5-12 private middle and high school based in San Jose, California, providing students an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum. Considering joining the Bobcat community? Join our interest list by clicking here to receive admissions updates for fall 2021.