Lan Quach, from Immigrant to Education Entrepreneur

Emigrated from Vietnam at a young age, with her family who spoke neither French nor English, Lan Quach took her little brother under her wing and enrolled him at the Kumon Centre of Saint-Laurent to perfect his math skills. Involved at this learning centre as of the age of 13, she is now the owner of the centre.

"My mother only spoke Chinese and she learned that there were classes for my brother, who was 10 years old at the time. I took him there, I waited for him, I reviewed his work" recalls the young woman in her thirties. Since she had good grades, her mother did not feel it was necessary for her to follow the program as well.

The Instructor at the time, offered to give Ms Quach more responsibility, so the resident of Ouimet Street began working in the centre. Her first check was $28.

"When I went to CEGEP, I worked more hours. I learned how to manage the stock and staff, answer the phone and prepare information sessions "says Ms Quach, who attended Saint-Laurent High School and Vanier College.

Finally, in 2007, the former director of the Kumon Centre offered Ms. Quach, who was at the time a nutrition student at McGill University, a partnership. She wanted her to take over the centre after she retired three years later.

At the same time, she continued to help her parents, for whom she has always done a lot of translation. "We are the only tri-linguals in the family," she notes, to highlight Quebec's strong advantage and in comparison to her cousins who immigrated to France and Australia.

Individualized method

Ms. Quach manages a team of about thirty people, mainly students who, as she did before, are helping in the supervision of students and the management of the Kumon Centre. "I like everything in this job, especially working with children. When one of them has understood, their eyes light up", says Ms Quach.

The Kumon centre offers personalized support, in some cases as early as age two and a half years old in Math and Reading. The aim is to guide the 350 or so children who attend the centre on Genet Street so that they can self-learn.

"For the little ones, the first goal is to sit alone, then recognize numbers and repeat them. Thus, they already know the basics when they start school, "she explains.

This method, which follows the pace of the student, was brought to Montreal from Japan 30 years ago. In addition to two classes per week, homework is to be done every day.

The extracurricular program was a real favourite for Mrs. Quach, who reports with emotion the successes of her students, but also their compliments to her and her relationship with them. Many of them live in Saint-Laurent, but some travel from farther, unwilling to leave the Centre after moving.

This fall, the Saint-Laurent inhabitant will be celebrating her twentieth anniversary at the Kumon Centre in Saint-Laurent, which opened in 1995. The Kumon method has been around the country for about 30 years and was developed in the 1950s by a Japanese man named Toru Kumon. As a math teacher, he developed worksheets for his son. Recognizing his success with the young boy, who was able to use differential and integral calculus in Grade 6, he offered to show this self-learning method to other children, eventually opening an office in Osaka.

(Translated from French)

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