Resume: She worked as an engineer, including two years at Hewlett-Packard, before deciding to become a full-time mother; after her youngest son graduated, she became an educational assistant at Crescent Valley High School.
From the nomination: “Angela takes the time to reach out to her students to make sure their needs are being met on an emotional and physical level. … Her heart is as big as the Willamette Valley and it shows daily in her work with her students.”
Family: Husband, Dennis. Daughter Stephanie, 25. Son David, 22.
Words of inspiration: “Stay hopeful and stay flexible. Always remember, there’s a tomorrow.”
By MIKE McINALLY
Angela So, an educational assistant at Crescent Valley High School, is one of the winners of a 2021 Golden Apple Award from the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation. But she would have preferred it if the award had gone instead to her whole team at Crescent Valley.
“So much of what we do is just being one member of the greater team,” she said in a recent interview on a quiet afternoon at the school. “I feel like, why am I singled out for this award when I see everybody, especially this past year, working so hard?”
Well, it’s because the people who have watched So at work over this past year say she’s gone above and beyond for students. In the words of a person who nominated So for the Golden Apple: “While our entire staff at CVHS is working tirelessly and doing what it takes to give all our students equal access to education, Angela continues to go a little further than the rest of us.”
For example: So converted online math tests into PDFs and delivered the printed documents to students who work better on paper instead of on a computer. Or this: After setting up an online coffee hour for students so they could gather virtually for fellowship during the pandemic, So delivered coffee supplies (and cereal) to another student’s doorstep as a way to coax the student to the meeting.
So downplays all of that. As former engineers at Hewlett-Packard, she and her husband have plenty of printers at home, so printing the tests wasn’t a big deal, she said. As for the coffee and cereal: It was a gesture that told the student, in a fun way, that she belonged, that she wasn’t alone. And, “being a mom, I go to the store all the time, right?” It was nothing.
So rethought her engineering career after the birth of her first child, Stephanie. “I’m the type of person who can focus only on one thing, and I want to do it really well. So I decided, out of the two, I’d rather spend time being a good mother.”
She home-schooled both Stephanie and a younger son, David. When David finished eighth grade, So and her husband, Dennis, decided that public school was a good option for him, and he started at Crescent Valley. But after David graduated, So faced an age-old question: “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
At the time, Crescent Valley had an open position for an educational assistant. The job was for four hours a day, focusing on math. So thought she just might be qualified: “I felt, hey, I have a (bachelor’s degree) and a masters in engineering. I have all these years of education. I think I can be helpful.”
She was right about that, but she faced a surprise as she started the job. During David’s time at the school, “I did not have much interaction with or understand much about kids with special needs,” So said. “And some of the struggles that our students face, that was very shocking to me.”
But she dove in, working closely with her team and with the students.
“It’s all about teamwork,” So said. “It takes everybody to do this, to support the kids … and then it’s just a matter of, ‘OK, where can I plug myself in to be helpful as a part of the team?’”
“You really get to know the kids through talking and spending time with them,” she said. “And then it’s just a matter of when you see a need: If you can meet it, go for it.”