Leaders in the Community

For my project, I came up with this thesis: When people are passionate for something, they will put in more effort when doing that thing. It often leads to success in those areas with enough hard work.

The reason I chose this thesis is because I wanted to gain more insight on what drives people to do what they do. I also wanted to find out if sticking to something you’re passionate about works out in the end. I’m currently thinking a lot about what I want to do for my future and what others want me to do.

For this project, I decided to interview the owner of a Kumon Center: Alice Yuan. She owns the Kumon center on Austin Ave. and was my instructor when I did Kumon a couple years ago.  When I was a student there, I witnessed firsthand how she helped and guided her students, including me. I also extremely admire her work, especially since she has fought through many things, including sickness, to get to where she is today. Her determination and dedication are reasons why I believe she is a great community leader and why I chose her for this project.

Before I did the interview with Alice, I read her profile on the Kumon website to find out more about her. I found out that Alice used to be a banker before she transitioned to Kumon, and that had little to no teaching experience before she joined Kumon. She has been working with Kumon for over 15 years, and during those years, has achieved awards like: Gold Elite Instructor, Best Instructor- West Coast, and many other Kumon program completion awards. From my interview with her, I found out that Alice first owned a Kumon center in Port Moody, then acquired the Coquitlam one. There was a period in which she owned both centers, but eventually settled for just the Coquitlam center- the one she owns today. Here are the detailed answers from my interview:

Here are my questions:

  1. I saw your page on the Kumon website, and noticed you said you used to work as a banker. Did the transition to Kumon happen overnight or was your decision in the works for a while? Did you have any idea you wanted to be a teacher when you were in school?
  2. What training did you have to go through to become a Kumon instructor? What skills did you learn from it?
  3. What are some obstacles you have had to overcome in your time as a Kumon instructor?
  4. What is your favorite thing about being the Chief instructor of Kumon and what is the least?
  5. In your opinion, what is the most important quality to have for a teacher/instructor?

I tried recording Alice’s responses on my phone, but unfortunately, the audio cut out as soon as my phone locked. Luckily, I was taking notes just in case that happened, so these are her responses.

For question #1, the answer was not what I had expected. Alice said that she did not have any idea she wanted to become a Kumon instructor when she was in school, and that her inspiration for starting a Kumon center came from her friend, a pastor at a Church. She said that “God guided her along the way” by giving her help and support when she first started in the form of employees.

For question #2, Alice said that at first when she first bought the Kumon center, she had no idea how to run it. She said that her training was “essentially me (Alice) asking others if they knew how this (Kumon) worked, and if they said yes, I would invite them to work with me, and that was how I learned”. At that time (early 2000s), there wasn’t too much training Kumon provided, so Alice had to go on her own for a period of time. Now there are extensive training requirements you have to go through in order to become the chief instructor at Kumon.

For question #3, Alice said that there were always obstacles in her line of work. Some examples she gave were: when she was forced to move locations by Kumon, fighting with the City of Coquitlam over regulations so that they can expand their center. The first example was a high risk that nearly “made me(Alice) quit” as it was going to increase their expenses to the point where it was hard to make a profit. In the end however, it turned out to be a good move. The second example has been currently ongoing for almost a year, and is the source of a lot of stress for Alice.

For question #4, Alice said that her most favorite thing about being a Kumon instructor was “watching my students develop and grow and to seeing their progress over time”. She said her least favorite things are dealing with angry parents as well as the stresses stated in question #3.

For question #5, Alice said that one of the most important qualities to have in an instructor/teacher was the ability to connect with their students. This is important because it allows you to monitor their progress and growth better and is another thing that Alice likes about being a Kumon instructor.

And that’s the end of the interview! Another important point that Alice said that didn’t correspond to any of the questions, but came from me asking follow up questions were: “I (Alice) really am passionate about this job, because people don’t do this for money; The money that Kumon pays is only enough to get by, so you only do this if you’re passionate for it. There were times at the beginning where I was making practically no money, and I thought about quitting. But what else would I do? Go back to banking? It was a good job, but I wasn’t passionate about it. So, I pushed through and here I am today.”

Overall, from my interview with Alice, I’ve found my thesis to be true. Through her passion and hard work, Alice has made it far from where she started to where she is today: a successful chief instructor of a successful Kumon center. From this project, I learned a lot about what it takes to reach your goals, and how if you work hard enough, good things will come your way.