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Nhu Hoang

Department: Science
Teaches: Chemistry and Robotics

When Nhu Hoang came to the United States from Viet Nam as a foreign-exchange student — aged 15 — her biggest challenge was learning English. During high school, she focused primarily on math and science while still struggling to express her thoughts and opinions. Despite her initial difficulties, she appreciated when her teachers encouraged her curiosity. It wasn’t until her 11th-grade English Composition class that she truly felt equipped with the tools and empowered in her ability to master the language. Nhu’s teacher told her, “I have faith that you can figure this out. And learning to figure things out is why you’re in school.” 

That teacher inspired Nhu to enter the field and help other students succeed, first in a Boston-area public school and at NMH since 2015. “NMH is a cohesive environment where everything is designed to help teachers empower students,” she says. 

When students tell her they’re “just not science people,” she replies, “You may not need chemistry later in life, but you need to learn to think logically, and to make observations and deductions; those things you will need to know. I’m using chemistry as the concrete thing to teach you all that ‘learning how to learn thing’ so in the future, when you want to teach yourself something, you’ll be able to do so.” She wants to give her students the kind of caring help she received all those years ago. 

In Introductory Chemistry, Nhu says her goal is to give students tools to explore and use creatively rather than in a cookie-cutter way. Honors Chemistry students have the math and study skills down and are motivated, so they use the tools on more complex concepts. 

But you won’t see Nhu’s students doing by-the-book, repetitive chemistry labs. “I teach the theory, then students use it to figure out a mystery,” she says. One recent lab asked students to separate an unknown mixture into its component substances. It wasn’t easy, but failure is a good thing, Nhu says. “My philosophy is: Fail. Fail often. Fail early, so that you can eventually succeed.”

Outside of class, Nhu can be found coaching NMH’s junior-varsity swim team, advising the Vietnamese Student Association, and visiting with students in the dorm she heads. “I love teaching and the other hats I wear here,” she says. “When I see kids in nonacademic settings, I notice different strengths in each of them. And that helps me tailor my teaching to the specific people in my classroom.”

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