The Navy Blue Angels recently traveled to Tinker for the 2019 Star Spangled Salute Air & Space Show, but before their weekend of performances they wanted to do something special to highlight a community influencer working with youth in Oklahoma.
Philip Nguyen, Kindergarten through 6th grade music teacher and Creative Arts Director at Bryant Elementary School in Moore, was recognized as a community influencer and had the opportunity to fly with a Blue Angel in a familiarization flight the week of the Air Show.
“To step on base and feel the honor and respect that everyone had towards this organization and the pilots was super humbling and eye-opening,” he said.
Nguyen was chosen for the flight by the Blue Angels based on his community influence, work with youth and exemplification of the Navy Core Values — honor, courage and commitment. Although Nguyen knew going into it how impressive and skilled the Blue Angel pilots are, his flight experience with Lcdr Adam Kerrick left him in awe.
“Of course our pilot was the best of the best, but I had no idea of the amount of precision he actually had,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen was named the 2017-2018 Moore Teacher of the Year, South Oklahoma City Teacher of the Year and Oklahoma’s Rising Star in Education. He’s also the worship pastor at Elevate Church in Moore and is involved with the Pioneer Library System in a volunteer capacity.
“If I had a superpower it would be the superpower of encouragement,” Nguyen said. “I might not be the best music teacher ever, but I definitely try to be one of the best encouragers. What really sparked the whole teacher of the year thing was me encouraging students.”
Upon Nguyen’s arrival at Bryant Elementary School, he asked their principal how she would define success in the music teacher position and she told him she just wanted him to get the students excited about music again. That’s exactly what Nguyen strives to do.
In his classroom, Nguyen implements the 21st Century Skills which include communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity. The students have been learning singing skills, how to play on bucket drums as well as how to play the ukulele while studying musical interpretation, musical analysis and instrument identification.
“I want kids to be able to think critically about music and then also be able to be creative with it,” Nguyen said.
Creativity and a love for music isn’t the only thing Nguyen hopes to instill in his students.
“My constant saying is ‘you matter.’ I always end the day, with ‘if nobody tells you this today, I love you, I’m for you, I’m with you, you matter,’” he said. “It’s incredible what you see when a kid knows it’s a safe place and a place where they can find love.”
Nguyen touched on an activity they do in his classroom called ‘30 Seconds of Appreciation’ where a student is picked and other students have the opportunity to say something positive about them.
“We just pour into that kid and it’s so cool because you’ll see kids light up because it’s the first time they’ve heard that there are really good things about them,” Nguyen said.
However, at the end of the day, Nguyen says that all he achieves with his students is only possible due to the culture of Moore Public Schools.
“I can do anything with three things. It has to have a good mission, it has to have good people and it has to have a good culture, and at my school we have all three of those things,” Nguyen said. “Obviously the mission of educating younglings, inspiring and bringing them up is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. The people that I work with are phenomenal. The principal that we have is incredibly healthy emotionally and spiritually, and so that bleeds into everything that we do which creates a very strong and healthy culture.”
“I’m blessed because both of my jobs are incredibly healthy places to be. They’re places where I wake up and say ‘I get to go to work today’ rather than ‘I have to go to work today.’”
Although professionally Nguyen plans on keeping his feet on solid ground, the flight with the Blue Angels is an experience he won’t forget.
“I feel really honored to have been chosen for such an incredible experience,” Nguyen said.