Eric Phan, Intervention Teacher: A Perfect ‘Fit’


Claire Seo

Eric Phan, intervention teacher, helps Sydney Peterson, junior, in the library computer lab. Phan helps students to complete classes ranging from U.S. History to geometry using the APEX Learning software.

“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature”

When you first meet Eric Phan, intervention teacher, the first thing you might notice is a tailored suit, pristine white Lacoste sneakers, immaculately styled hair, a quick smile, and an outgoing personality.

But peel away his polished exterior and you’ll discover a competitive spirit, a passion for literature, and compassion for his students, which Phan demonstrates daily as BOHS’s new intervention teacher.

Phan works with students who have fallen behind in their classes to help them pass their APEX Learning online courses, ranging from U.S. History to geometry.

Once students become “acquainted with the way the classroom functions,” following through with APEX’s rigorous curriculum becomes the focus for Phan and his students.

Flashback to Phan’s alma mater, Fountain Valley High School, 2014; The last thing Phan imagined his future career would be was “high school teacher.” Instead, his mind was on sports, ranging from swimming, soccer, cycling, running, and tennis (Phan was a CIF champion in singles), and he would often skate with his older brother, Hai Phan, during his free time.

Entering his freshman year at Orange Coast College, Phan was undecided on which major he wanted to pursue. But when Phan read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Nature,” which promotes personal introspection, simple living, and self-sufficiency, he had an epiphany: Phan, who had fallen “in love with the English language,” knew he wanted to major in literature.

During Phan’s studies as an English major, he had another realization:  “I realized that I can be a lot more relatable to students than my high school teachers were. English goes far beyond just Shakespeare; it goes far beyond just a book; it goes into the actual lives of every single student. That’s when I was like, ‘Okay, I can actually do this as a career’.”

English goes far beyond just Shakespeare; it goes far beyond just a book; it goes into the actual lives of every single student.

— Eric Phan, Intervention Teacher

His entire life, Phan has enjoyed helping others, whether a teammate or a classmate. Empathy, coupled with a new passion for literature, led him to a field he’d never dreamed of pursuing while a sports-crazy student at Fountain Valley High: teaching.

After two years at OCC to complete his general education requirements, Phan transferred to CSU Fullerton, where he further pursued his English degree (and even competed on the Titans’ triathlon team).

In 2018, with Bachelor’s Degree in English in hand, Phan took his first steps into the world of teaching teens, first with graduate level coursework in Education, then within Santa Ana Unified School District where he worked as a student teacher. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Phan’s student teaching assignment was cut short. and instead, got to work at BOHS, where he completed his student teaching semester — which involved 600 hours of observation and teaching — under the guidance of Chris Shaadt and Mitsuo Maeda, English teachers.

Phan completed his student teaching semester — which involved 600 hours of observation and teaching — at BOHS under the guidance of Chris Shaadt and Mitsuo Maeda, English teachers.

“He was always prepared. He took every suggestion we gave him, and he really worked hard to prepare himself as a teacher,” Maeda said.

Shaadt added: “He really cared. You could tell he’s a person that really enjoys working with young people, which is something that is extremely important. If you’re going to teach high school students, you can just tell by the way he interacts with his students on a daily basis.”

After finishing his student teaching assignment, Phan began substitute teaching within BOUSD.

As a familiar face and reliable employee, Phan was offered the job of intervention teacher by Dr. Joshua Porter, principal. Porter created the role due to the adverse effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on student achievement.

Phan understood the challenges students are going through to adjust to in-person learning, such as less time to complete homework and more extracurricular activities after school. Thus, he’s flexible, patient, and accommodating. “I’m coming into this classroom [with the philosophy] of: I’m going to accept every single person in this room, and I’m going to implement a curriculum that will show them that it’s okay to be a different person in other classrooms, as long as they’re in my classroom,” Phan said. “They’re more than free to be whoever they want to be.”

Because the role of an intervention teacher requires several computers to work through APEX, Phan’s classroom, which occupies a space in the library, includes a computer lab and personal office, instead of a traditional classroom with dozens of desks. While maintaining a quiet learning environment can sometimes be a challenge while adjacent to the busy, and sometimes noisy, computer lab, Julie Estell, librarian, works with Phan to minimize distractions.

“The fact that we have to share space is unusual, but I think we’re trying to find that balance between making sure that he can have his classroom without the constant interruptions that are happening here at the library,” Estell said.

Although Phan still faces the challenges of teaching a wide range of subjects in a non-traditional setting, he said, “I was not ever expecting to be a Wildcat, so simply having everybody on my side and on my team is more than I could ask for.”