Interviewers: Chloe Lee & Joyce Han Interviewee: Anna Cho, Cailyn & Hailie Location: CPC EM Prayer Room
Joyce & Chloe: Tell us a little about yourself!
Anna: My name is Anna Cho, I am 36 years old.
Are you okay with us putting in your age?
Anna: Yes of course! I think it’s a Korean culture thing to not add the age right?
Anna: I don't think people really know my age.
You look younger than your age!
Anna: I hope that’s a good thing!
Anna: I am also a teacher.
What do you enjoy about teaching? Where is your heart in regards to teaching?
Anna: Well, when I was younger, I aspired for many different professions. I never thought I would go into teaching-- it was never my first choice. But the funny thing is, when I first came to the United States, there was a pastor at my father’s church and as he got to know me he said, “You know what Anna, you’re going to be a teacher.” And I remember looking at him and thinking, “I am not going to be a teacher!” You know at that age, you think teachers are so boring and teachers are this and that, so I didn't want to be a teacher. When I first went to Hunter College I didn't know if I wanted to go into nursing or education. I realized I wasn't good at science AT ALL. So I decided to give that up and realized nursing was not for me! Every time I went into a science class, it was just so stressful for me. That’s when I looked into education. The funny thing is, I had so many teachers that changed my life. And when I looked back, I asked myself, “What do I really want to be?” And there were so many teachers in the school, and yet it was “that” specific teacher that changed my life. It was “that” teacher that led me on a path to make the right decisions. I thought about those teachers, and if I could be that person for that one student, I thought it was worth not giving up. I think it was God’s way of telling me that He wanted me to go this way and wanted me to be there. That is why I went into teaching. To imprint something in a child’s life. It is so crazy how there were many times I wanted to give up as a teacher because I found it very difficult emotionally, mentally, and sometimes even physically. This is because you don't necessarily see the result of your work until later on. Some kids improve rapidly while others don't improve as much as you want them to. But every time I wanted to give up on teacher, I have been so blessed by my students who gave me letters to thank me and encourage me to keep going. Even now, I struggle, but the students are the ones that keep me going.
What subject do you teach?
Anna: I teach ENL (known as ESL) for incoming students.
Cailyn and Hailie, what do you think mom does at work?
Cailyn: Teach the students English!
Anna: Can you explain what experience you had when you saw mommy at school on “take your child to work” day?
Cailyn: We watched you work and we ate pizza!
Anna: That’s all you remember? That you ate pizza?
Cailyn: It was the first time I tried mushroom pizza!
(bursts out in laughter)
Wait, mommy works at a high school. Wasn’t that scary for you Cailyn? To see all these older people? What was it like for you?
Cailyn: No, it was really fun!
Anna: So what was mommy like? Was mommy different from being your mommy at home?
Cailyn: No, you were very calm.
Anna: You know what’s so funny? *Faces Joyce & Chloe* Since I teach high school, you have to teach them critical teaching skills. And I love making students think. When I see the lights go off in their eyes and notice that they’re following my train of thought, I absolutely love that. That moment when everything clicks for the student. So with my daughter, Cailyn, I used to ask her these critical thinking questions-- at the age of two.
Wow… the age of two…
Anna: Yeah! And I would ask these questions like “Why do you think she did that to you?” not realizing she is only two! She wouldn't understand! I had an “ah-hah” moment and thought to myself, “oh yeah... She's only two…”
And how was it for you Hailie? Seeing mommy at work?
Hailie: *stares blankly*
Cailyn: She never went because it was when I was in Kindergarden!
Anna: Hailie didn't have a chance to go yet because she was too young and I cannot handle them both at once!
Anna: When Hailie was finally old enough to go, I couldn't take them both because it was either take both of them to work or don’t take them at all! And I can’t handle them both together…
(bursts out in laughter)
Anna: My kids are very energetic. Especially Hailie, she's like a 껌딱지 “ggumddakgee” (means “sticky gum” in Korean) Like she is glued to my hips! She calls out “umma, umma, umma, umma” like every five seconds!
Anna: And then she doesn’t say anything afterwards! I guess it’s like a comfort thing?
(Hailie giggles louder)
Hailie, what do you think it means to be a teacher?
Hailie: *stares blankly*
Cailyn: Make kids smarter… or something?!
I know you have been teaching for eleven years now, and I’m sure a lot has changed in your heart. How has your teaching career evolved over the years? Anna: Actually, no. I think it’s the opposite. It’s not my heart that’s changed. I think if my heart had changed, I would have moved on to a different career path. I never questioned my choice of career.. Yes, I have difficulties and there are times when I want to quit, but the bottomline is this, that my heart and the passion for teaching haven’t changed. My circumstances or situations I am in may have changed, but my heart for education and for the students will always be there. And that is one of the things that really keeps me going.
Anna: When Cailyn had Joyce as her teacher, she was in kindergarden. I can say that she is the same person as she was then.
Yes! I remember, she had so much energy.
Anna: Watching them grow is amazing. They are so different, and yet so alike. There are pieces of me in both of them and I recognize it.
How do you balance your career and your family altogether?
Anna: When I first had Cailyn, I remember going back to school. I used to work in a very rough school. There were many days when I would cry on my way to work, and pray to God asking, “Why... why do I have to go here?” I had to leave my four month old baby, it was a rough school and the kids’ behavior was so bad and disrespectful. But now I realize why God placed me there. I grew so much as a teacher and it was a learning experience for me. I don't know if I made the right decision to continue to work even after I had kids, because I am a mother. There are stay-at-home moms and moms with careers-- did I really make a right choice? What if Cailyn really needed me?
Cailyn: But you are home with me.
Anna: I know, but I meant be home full time as a stay-at-home mom.
Cailyn: I remember grandma used to be home with us!
Anna: Yes, *looks at Joyce & Chloe* I had help from my mother-in-law, my mom and my sister. They helped me maintain my career and be a mommy. It is a struggle because it is not just about being a mommy and having a professional career, but it is also about being a wife. Sometimes juggling all three roles gets very difficult. If I didn't have a husband who was so understanding and supportive, it would've been very hard.
Speaking of your husband, how did you meet your husband?
Cailyn & Hailie: Through a friend!!
Then what happened?
Cailyn: A party!!
(everyone bursts out laughing)
Anna: I guess that was it, we met through a mutual friend and we enjoyed each other’s company. My husband and I are total opposites!
In what way?
Anna: Things like, what we enjoy, our interests, just who we are as individuals. We are just opposites. For example, he is nocturnal and I am a morning person. I guess when we were dating it never bothered me-- not that it bothers me now, but now we understand each other in the way we have different perspectives. But one of the things that I am grateful for is the way he understands me. I know I can be difficult at times. (giggles)
Along your path of life, where/when did you encounter the Lord and start your relationship with Him?
Anna: I have been so blessed because I was able to call the Lord my Savior ever since I was a little kid. I do not know exactly when I accepted the Lord. He was always present in my life. When I found out that I was soon to have children, I asked myself, “What can I do for my child?” I made a decision then, that I will raise these children under Him. That is when I really came back to church and got more involved. Before then, I was a “sunday christian.” I was under the idea that because God was always with me, I didn’t have to go to Him. I had that selfish mindset. When I had children, I realized that I wanted my children to have the same blessings that I had. It was the best thing I can do for them.
So how is your relationship with the Lord now? Anna: I know what God wants for me, and what I need to do. He has given me everything. I wish I can give more of my time and interact with Him more. But it is so hard. I take Cailyn and Hailie to Awana and other church programs to get them involved and pray so that they can be closer with God. But for my own faith, it is hard to do. It is difficult to take that time out of my life for myself. It is so important but I don't know why I don't have that courage to move forward.
Anna: I remember my friends in high school would always ask each other, “Why is Anna so happy? There’s always that happiness around her.” I never realized what that was, but you know that was God in me. And that is why I was always happy and filled with joy. I may not have been consciously aware that God was with me but I believe that the Holy Spirit in me was at work. Looking back on it now, I see all the blessings that God has given me, and I am so thankful. In my heart I want to give it all to God but handling so many things in life, sometimes my faith doesn’t always come first. This year I am taking a little bit more initiative in stepping forward with my faith. I always served in the KM before I started attending our EM. And the reason why I started coming out to EM was because service times changed. But I always remembered those days when I sent my daughter, Cailyn, to the After School program and many of EM members worked there as teachers. There was so much love that they were giving to my daughter. You guys didn’t have to but you did anyways, and I was always so thankful. I was even more grateful to know that my daughter was in good hands and that there was nothing for me to worry about. Now this was a few years ago, so after some time we all moved on and I didn’t think much into it. But it wasn’t until that one day in the summer, when we had our EM BBQ. I saw the way everyone was serving. I talked to Pastor Mark about this, that the heart of serving you guys had really touched me. I looked at Pastor Mark and said to him, “The selflessness and the humility that they have in the way they serve are amazing. It is something to be respected. They actually should be the ones to be served.” But you know, we [older generation] were sitting down because we weren’t familiar with EM. Meanwhile, you guys were just sweating as you were grilling and serving food. Being in that moment and watching the whole situation, it moved my heart. I told myself, “I want to serve them so that they can serve others.” I think that’s when my heart went out for this ministry.
Amen. Stepping forward in your faith! But can I just say that I was having so much fun grilling!
Anna: Yeah I’m sure! I don’t know how to explain it in English but my heart was really going out to you guys. I know you guys are like family and long time ago our EM was big before. But after some time, people kept leaving one-by-one over the years. And I know you guys were serving wholeheartedly, even during that time. I can’t imagine the hurt or pain you guys must have felt to see people leave one-by-one as you guys were serving. And you guys were coping with that question, “Why God?” Through it all, by the grace of God, the core of you remained together as you shared that experience. In the midst of all that, you overcame and you guys are still serving! That is amazing. And I want to be a part of that. I love being in EM. I may not know all the people here, but I think we’re all coming together with a shared heart.
Amen! This is turning into an encouragement for us! Thank you so much!
Anna: I wanted to tell you guys this for some time now. But I didn’t want to sound like that typical Korean ajumma (older korean lady) giving you guys that “nagging compliment” (everyone laughs) It’s true though, you guys have this faith that is so honorable and encouraging to others. I’ve been learning through you guys, that it’s not about age or the titles that we have, it’s just about serving God and keeping the unity of our church. We’re all children of God so we’re called to love others the same.
My last question is for Cailyn and Hailie. You know, our church has changed so much. How do you get to know the new friends that come to visit or are coming to church for the first time?
Anna: (laughs) Ok. I can answer that for Cailyn because she can’t go to that level. She’s so welcoming that she doesn’t even have to think about it. *Cailyn nods* She’s that kind of girl who will always be the first one to go say hello to the new friends. It’s not even a question in her mind because it’s so natural to her. I see God working in her in so many different ways.
Hailie: If your question was, “Did you like when you moved in to the new church?” I would say no.
(laughs) How come? Why don’t you like it?
Hailie: Because..because I liked the old church better.
What did you like about the old church?
Hailie: Arts and Crafts!
Cailyn: Oh yeah! We have nothing to do! We just go on the ping-pong table…
(Cailyn & Hailie starts laughing hysterically)
Okay, we have another question. Who is God to you?
Cailyn: He’s my Father.
Hailie: He’s my Father too!
Anna: So I visited Cailyn’s school and I saw her work on the class bulletin board. Her teacher asked the students to write down how they felt on the first day of school. Do you remember what you wrote Cailyn?
Cailyn: (laughs) I don’t really remember! Because that was like…
Hailie: Two years ago!
Cailyn: Two months ago.
Anna: (laughs) So the question her teacher asked was, “Were you nervous on the first day of school?” As I was standing there, I saw that she wrote, “No, I did not feel nervous. I was confident because God is with me.”
Yes Cailyn! Amen!
Anna: I remember when we were in Awana, they taught the kids, “Jesus loves me.” You know, when the kids are 3 and they are just starting out at Awana, they’re trying to understand this truth. Hailie and her friends were practicing to say “God loves me” a few times. And the kid next her was saying, “God loves me.” Hailie looks at him and said, “No! God loves ME.”
Anna: And the boy looked at her and said, “NO. ME!” and then she’s like, “MEEEEE.” They were arguing!
(Everyone laughs hysterically)
Hailie: Mom! Who? Who did that?
Cailyn: You! (Laughs)
To wrap it up, how can we pray for you and your family? Anna: To pray for my husband. I want him to grow as a man of God. Also, to raise my kids by His Word and His will. Lastly, for me to keep growing in my faith. I know where my heart is, but it’s hard for me to share because I’m not used to opening my heart to people. In the Korean culture, we don’t really share our hearts or be vulnerable with each other because we feel judged. For instance, people may judge you just because you changed your hair color. I think growing up in that culture and mentality I felt the need to hide. I was always afraid to share and open up my heart because I was scared of being judged. So this is actually a new thing to me. This EM is giving me opportunities to open up my heart and be vulnerable. It’s still hard but I want to and need to step out in my faith and trust in the Lord. Thankfully, this interview/fellowship time with you girls is helping me to step out in faith. Please pray for me to continue on this journey faithfully.