Heather Jun finds joy in teaching children who come from various cultural backgrounds in LA Koreatown
Heather Jun, a 26-year-old Santa Monica College alumna and UCLA graduate, is now a lead elementary instructor, after-school-program coordinator and supervisor of the BRIDGE middle- and high-school volunteer program at the Koreatown Youth Community Center in L.A. She finds joy in the youths’ love and positive energy.
Her teaching philosophy reflects the hardships youngsters these days go through.
She said, “it is unjust to diminish their perspectives and voices as they also carry crucial values and contribute to the development of our society.
“I try my best to give our little kids a chance to speak for themselves. Youths’ decisions are often overlooked or ignored. I want my youth to know that they have a voice in the environment that they’re in and should say something if something is unfair.”
Jun has had her tough times in life when she felt desperate and disappointed.
Her hardest times were when her personal issues conflicted with school work, so she had to attend a community college; she wished to keep her personal issues secret. She attended Santa Monica College as a Psychology major from fall of 2011 to spring of 2013 and transferred to UCLA that fall.
Her life was uncertain. Her future was even more uncertain. During her first few months at Santa Monica College, she feared the endless uncertainties before her. She was also embarrassed by the fact that she had failed to successfully move from high school to a four-year university, as all her friends did.
She used the uncertainties to keep herself motivated throughout her college years and even to this day, uncertainty keeps her alert.
It also led her to the world of teaching.
“I didn’t have a passion. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life exactly. I envied those who had clear career goals or mission in their lives,” Jun said.
Jun thanks Santa Monica College for providing the building blocks for her teaching career. Attending SMC also saved her a substantial amount of money. She believes SMC helped her become the person she is today.
Having spent the majority of her life in Koreatown, she often reminisces her favorite childhood memories from her earlier days in Korea. She misses spending every afternoon hanging out with her neighborhood friends in front of her apartment.
She now enjoys spending time with people around her in L.A. One memorable trip took her to Grand Canyon with her family: two parents, maternal grandfather and one younger brother.
“I’m not a nature person, and I’m usually not amazed by plants or scenery, but Grand Canyon blew my mind!” she said. “I think it really opened me up to be more accepting of new experiences because I may end up liking it!”
Jenny Bong, the former president of the BRIDGE program, who will be attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this fall, said Jun is a great mentor and teacher.
“She brings the light to the crowd and she’s an extremely strong and influential leader,” Bong said. “I was amazed by her professional aspects like keeping all the volunteers and children on task, as well as genuinely caring for them, and her passion for community service as a means to give back to the community.”
Oty Baasandorj has worked with Jun since the summer of 2014, when Baasandorj first started as a teenage volunteer at the KYCC.
“Heather teacher has a great personality and she embraces it. Despite her busy schedule, she always has time to have fun and check up on us volunteers. She has inspired me with her motivation and love for her work,” said Baasandorj, 19, who starts at UC Berkeley this fall. “Not one day goes by without her expressing her love towards all the children.”
Jun plans to continue pursuing her teaching career at the KYCC, as well as spending time with the youth. She hopes to gain more experience as a teacher and be recognized in her field.
I prefer to be called a mentor than a teacher,” Jun said. “You know, like a life mentor? I want to become that kind of teacher.”