May 8, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU’s Tiffany Tong is Ready to Enter the Classroom

VALDOSTA — Tiffany T. Tong, 24, holds two degrees from Valdosta State University, both in the field of early childhood education. If and when she decides to pursue the third, she plans to return to the institution of higher learning that has both nurtured and educated her for the past six years.

The middle of three children, Tong set her sights on attending VSU after graduating from Alpharetta High School in May 2007. Like many teenagers, she wanted to put some distance between her and home.

“I needed to get away,” said the daughter of Thien and Thuy Tong of Alpharetta. “I thought that VSU was such a pretty campus, and it was close to Florida and warmer weather. I didn’t care that I wouldn’t know anyone; I just went.”

By the end of her first semester — if not before — Tong realized that she had made the right decision. In May 2011, she became the first teacher in her family, earning a Bachelor of Science in Education.

“It was perfect,” she said. “The more I went through the program, got familiar with my professors and the routine, and learned where everything was located, the more comfortable I became. I was fortunate to gain classroom experience with practicums in kindergarten and second and fourth grades. I student taught in fifth grade. I loved it.”

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher,” she added. “When I was younger, I loved babysitting the kids in the neighborhood. I loved teaching them and helping them with their homework. I loved going to school, and I loved my teachers.”   

A few days after receiving her undergraduate degree, Tong re-entered VSU, this time as a graduate student. By the end of the summer semester, she was working Monday through Thursday for the university’s Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center as a graduate assistant and on Fridays for the Lowndes County Board of Education as a substitute teacher.

Tong graduated on Friday, May 3, with a Master of Education and endorsements in both reading and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) — and a wealth of experience in helping struggling readers from diverse backgrounds achieve success.

“There is so much that Tiffany has done for me these past two years,” said Dr. Gina Doepker, an associate professor in VSU’s Department of Early Childhood and Special Education and Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center director, referring to a long list of Tong’s accomplishments as a graduate assistant.  

Doepker noted that Tong “has been a major part of the new program development within the [Ruby R.] Sullivan Literacy Center.” She “took the initiative to develop one leveling system for all of the leveled books” in the center’s library, making it easier for tutors to find appropriate materials to help struggling readers in the elementary grades build literacy skills, gain confidence, and be more motivated to want to read for both pleasure and study. She described Tong as “extremely reliable” and “always professional” and said that she will be difficult to replace. 

“She will be a phenomenal teacher,” Doepker added.

Tong hopes to return to her hometown to live and work. She has applied for jobs in two school districts — Fulton County and Forsyth County — and said that about 50 different schools have her resume, which she delivered by hand during Spring Break in March.

“I am ready for my own classroom,” she said.

Contact Tiffany T. Tong at to learn more.

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