Anthony Yom, 35, has taught at Lincoln High in Lincoln Heights, NY, for 11 years. When he started, he disliked the job because so many students, 80% Latino, were unmotivated and hostile. "I really hated it," he remembers. He looks so young that some students refer to him as a big brother, so he turned this into in asset. He befriended his pupils; called them at home in the evening to help with homework, and tutored free on weekends and vacations. When asked to teach calculus five years ago, he urged more Latino students to join the school's Asian intellectual elite, and many, like Carlos Navarett, enrolled in calculus. Carlos' mother cleans houses and his Dad works in a factory, but thanks to Yom's faith in his ability, he now hopes to push his B up to an A and be a teacher or work for NASA.
Like most inspiring teachers, Yom worked in obscurity until one of his students, Cedrick Argueta, was among only 12 in the entire world to earn a perfect score on the AP Calculus exam. Cedrick was invited to meet President Obama in the White House, and Yom was not surprised. This was the third year in a row that Yom's ENTIRE CLASS passed the AP Calculus exam. So what turned his students into scholars? "This may sound a little corny," said Yom, "but you really have to love them. You build this trust, and at that point, whatever you ask them to do, they'll go the extra mile. The recipe is love."