Coffee Chat: New math teacher Daniel Nguyen

Emilia Diaz-Magaloni and Maya Akkaraju

This is the fifth installment of Coffee Chats, where The Paly Voice gets to know staff members over a cup of coffee.

The Paly Voice sat down with math teacher Daniel Nguyen over a medium mocha to chat about his interests and his new job here at Palo Alto High School.

This is Nguyen’s first year teaching at Paly and he is teaching Geometry A and Introduction to Analysis and Calculus. Nguyen credits his passion for teaching to a course in college called Teacher Cadet. Here, Nguyen discovered he enjoyed helping students and presenting material that he liked when he was a student. 

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Math teacher Daniel Nguyen sips his medium Peet’s mocha during the interview. Nguyen is a new teacher this year and is teaching Introduction to Analysis and Calculus and Geometry A. “I want to teach my students beyond just teaching them the material, learning what their interests are and what they want to do in life,” Nguyen said. Photo by: Emilia Diaz-Magaloni

“I just liked helping students understand things that I enjoyed learning, and I think students have a lot of energy that makes my job rewarding, so it’s a lot of fun,” Nguyen said.

Before coming to Palo Alto, Nguyen graduated from Monta Vista High School, and then attended University of California, Los Angeles, where he majored in statistics and received a masters degree in biostatistics. He then took his skills to the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Palo Alto, where he conducted research, but after a few years decided to change course.

“I tutored for a little bit full time, and thought ‘No, I should probably get a real job,’ so I started subbing, and I got my credential at San Jose State [University],” Nguyen said. 

Nguyen then taught at Los Altos High School for one year before coming to Paly.

According to Nguyen, after starting his job at Paly, he has found it more difficult to balance his hobbies and his work. However, he thinks it’s important to find space for his own interests around the Bay Area.

“It’s kind of hard, when you’re starting out being a teacher, there’s a lot of planning to do,” Nguyen said. “However, my wife and I love finding new restaurants to try and just enjoy ourselves like that.”

When he is able to travel, Nguyen enjoys visiting locations such as Santa Cruz, Monterey and Yosemite.

“We [Nguyen and his wife] got married in Big Sur, down in Monterey,” Nguyen said. “It’s a great place to hike. It’s super pretty and not so crowded. It’s a nice getaway from the busy life I lead here.” 

Traveling is not Nguyen’s only hobby; he also enjoys watching hockey and constructing lego sets.

“I love building legos, now that I have a job, I can buy my own legos,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen is also helping out with the Paly Speech and Debate team as a faculty advisor. According to Nguyen, he is currently assisting with administrative tasks but hopes to further immerse himself in the team in coming years.

Nguyen’s favorite part of speech and debate is learning about the topic you are debating rather than the debating itself. For Nguyen, it is a way to expand his knowledge past what he learned in school. 

“It’s a way to learn about the world outside the classroom,” Nguyen said. “That’s why I like it and I want to support it.”

This year, Nguyen aims to become a part of the Paly community and connect with his students.

“I want to teach my students beyond just teaching them the material, learning what their interests are and what they want to do in life,” Nguyen said. “I want to see my students as more than students to just teach math too, but also people with other aspirations who I can help support.” 

According to Nguyen, one of his biggest pieces of advice to someone wanting to excel at math or in any other problem is to be able to explain how to solve that problem to other people.

“I like to tell my students that if you can teach something to someone, you finally understand it,” Nguyen said.