I am Oaklandish // 24 + 25 // Toai Dào and Ainye Long, Educators
Posted on October 4, 2011
I have a sneaking suspicion that Toai Dào did not grow up in Oakland, California. I know for a FACT that Ainye Long is from another city, slightly North of Oakland, that rhymes with -erkeley. But lemme tell you right now just how Oaklandish both of these folks are.
I lived with Ainye for a year and some change. While I was living with her, we were both employed, praise God. I had a job working for one or two non-profits. I’d get up in time for work at 10am, spend a grueling day doing one-off workshops with Bay Area High school students and drag myself home by 8 or 9 and scrounge for something in the fridge. I worked hard. Really dog tired hard, all of the time.
Ainye worked, at first, as an educator teaching 8th grade Mathematics at Oakland Charter Academy, and then moved on to teach Algebra and Geometry at Envision. While I was on time for my 10am, Ainye had class before 8. She worked all day, often bringing students who were achieving below grade level on par or to mastery. She tutored at lunch, mentored after school, attended basketball games regularly, and when I straggled in around 8pm, she’d be grading papers. Til 11. or 1. Since working at Envision, Ainye has moved on to serve as Parent and Community Engagement Director for Families That Can. Her work takes her to dozens of charter schools up and down the State of California, as she works to improve communication between students, parents, administrators and teachers. And she does it while being damned gorgeous. Some might even call her Foxy. I think I once wrote a song about ladies like her.
Meanwhile, cross town at Life Academy, Toai Dào, was doing the similar dance around scheduling, limited personal life, turning down offers to hang from friends — all in the pursuit of teaching better, more efficiently, with more heart. A veteran educator, with a decade of experience in Oakland classrooms, Toai teaches Biology, Physical Education, Gardening, Welding, and being awesome.
I met Toai through our mutual circle of friends: a Sunday Soccer club called Left Wing Futbolistas. On Sundays, at a park in Piedmont (re-appropriate the wealth, what what), a wide cadre of artists, artisans, activists and yes, educators meet to enjoy a smack talk filled game of the world’s sport. The pick up game is open to anyone who wants to play, particularly women and queer-identified folks, and Mr. Dào is one of a few organizers who has ventured to teach me how to play. I am awful. Swear to bliss awful at the game of futbol. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Treatunice’s shins. I’ve g’d them a couple of times, while completely missing the ball. But Toai is encouraging, gentle, respectful and supportive. As a young woman who has been verbally abused by almost all male science teachers, I am more than a bit moved by a teacher as patient as Toai. If he’s this kind on a soccer field, imagine how caring he is in the classroom, encouraging the young lady struggling through her bio text book.
That isht is Oaklandish. To cultivate the idea that every child deserves to learn — to invest daily in the growth and development of the town by putting time money and talent into our greatest resource — the young people — that’s what my city is all about. I don’t care that neither of the folks profiled are from here. They MAKE here, here. Everyday. Yo, Ain, Toai — stop by the Oaklandish party in your honor, this Friday, October 7th, to claim your free “I am Oaklandish” T-Shirts. I can’t think of anyone who deserves them more.
PS Toai, I tried to spell your name all the way right, but WordPress wasn’t having it. Forgive me for my site’s shortcomings.
This blog is brought to you, in part, by local textile and cultural purveyors, Oaklandish. Oaklandish will be throwing a party on the 1st Friday in October at their new Downtown Oakland store. Everyone I profile is invited to attend as an honored guest and will receive a limited edition “I AM OAKLANDISH” t-shirt. In a city of roughly 500,000 residents, there’s no way I can cover everyone or everything, but I’ll do my best to rep a cross section of folks that reflect our city’s varied perspectives and populations. Also, it is important to note that none of the honorees know that they’re being highlighted until the blog post is up, because surprises are sometimes fun, cuzzo. This means that some folks profiled might not closely align themselves with Oaklandish — and that’s fine by me — I mean no ill intent, nor make any assumptions — just want to shout out some folks who make a real impact on the world, from this pearl of a city on the East Side of the Bay.