Tatchee will be starting his formal schooling this year. His school, Alice Fong Yu Alternative, is named in honor of the first Chinese American public school teacher in California. But we are still not so familar with the person herself. Digging around the Internet, I ran into her obituary in a local newspaper in 2000! Suddenly I feel connected to her.
Alice Fong Yu, the first Chinese American public school teacher in San Francisco and one of the first living people to have a San Francisco school named in her honor, died Tuesday in a Lafayette nursing home at the age of 95.
A native of the gold-mining town of Washington, near Nevada City, Mrs. Yu attended a one-room grammar school before coming to San Francisco with her family in 1916. Six years later, she applied to San Francisco State Teacher's College, only to be told by school administrators that Chinese Americans were not being hired as teachers.
After her graduation in 1926, Mrs. Yu planned to teach school in Hawaii. But the principal of Stockton lobbied the San Francisco school board in her behalf, insisting that the school needed a bilingual teacher.
As the only bilingual faculty member, she also served as translator, social worker and all-purpose liaison between the principal and parents. She spent almost her entire teaching career at Commodore Stockton Elementary School, instructing three generations of Chinese students. She was also a speech therapist in several San Francisco schools. (She received her certification from UC Berkeley in 1957, when she was 52!).
In 1996, the school district named its new Chinese immersion school on 12th Avenue in Mrs. Yu's honor (at 91).
2011.05.04 comments -