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The wonderful world of Wong

Creating one of the most successful AP programs in Arroyo's history, Mr. Tony Wong is pushing students of all backgrounds to strive for academic success.

Lilly Forsyth, Editor-in-chief

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Tucked into the corner of the campus is the man, the myth, the god. AP calculus teacher Mr. Tony Wong has dedicated nearly twenty years developing his advanced math program becoming the most successful of its kind in the district and quite possibly the San Gabriel Valley.

Before Wong’s arrival in 1998, the AP Calculus class taught by Mr. Eugene Meiners was the mysterious class just out of reach from the average student. Only the very top students were allowed to enroll in the class.

With the introduction of Mr. Wong, a summer Pre-Calculus class was created, and the following year an AP Calculus BC class was added as a more thorough extension of the AB program. Eventually, enough students were enrolled in his classes to fill three AB classes and two BC classes.

Then came the year when his most diligent students wanted to take things one step further: multivariable calculus. With the approval from the UC and Cal State University system, Mr. Wong began teaching a class he called Calculus CD in 2006.

Being that the amount of students only grew from one to fifteen by 2012, CD was not given its own period and was instead combined with a BC class according to the school’s master list. However, for instructions of the group he used his conference period to teach the students for no pay. When the numbers grew large enough to warrant a class period, the course was cancelled.

Meanwhile, the rapid growth of students entering higher math prompted the addition of a regular Calculus class taught by Mr. David Ruiz in 2010 and an AP Statistics class instructed by Mr. Bryon Hake in 2013. This allowed students to either follow a slower pace when it came to Calculus or take an alternate route completely and learn about Statistics. Some students who managed to complete both AB and BC before their Senior year would also enroll in Hake’s class to further their education.

Wong has spent his entire career writing and continuously revising handbooks and packets to prepare students for the multiple choice and free response questions on the AP exam.  

“Every time I go to tutoring at 7 in the morning he’s already working on ways to help us understand the material better,” explained AB student Jillian Cerbasi, 10.

Not only does he come an hour before his first period to offer help, Mr. Wong can also be found every day in his classroom during lunch and an hour after school for tutoring. In fact, one element of his teaching methods includes a tutoring system in which, depending on one’s grade at the end of the previous week, students must attend tutoring sessions for a certain amount of time to either be a tutor to others or seek help.

What makes Mr. Wong’s classes so unique and successful is the dedication that comes not only from the teacher himself, but the students as well.

Every year on his birthday the AP calculus students dress in Mr. Wong’s habitual attire of white button up shirts with colorful ties with khaki or dark pants.The night before, several students team up with custodians to decorate his classroom with streamers, balloons, and cheerful wishes and drawings on his whiteboards. After school, students from all his classes cram into the chaotic room for food, cake, and present opening. This tradition has continued for over a decade and other teachers have even come to recognize the significance of the holiday.

While it is apparent his students are more than appreciative of his efforts, some were concerned and downright outraged when the El Monte Union High School District was awarded the 2014 District of the Year award. This honor derives from a district’s ability to improve and strengthen their AP programs across the board, and a short YouTube video is produced to highlight the success of the classes. Arroyo’s entire AP Calculus program that has surpassed global passing rates for the last five years did not receive a single recognition in the video.

Nonetheless with the AP exams fast approaching in May, Mr. Wong remains devoted to his pupils and reminds students that “we cannot change history, but we can make history.”

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