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Math teacher recalls campus days

Two boys crouch in the niche of the hallway. As the unsuspecting teacher walks by, the boys pounce. In the ensuing scuffle, the teacher winds up pinned, the latest victim of the Fisher duo.

“One day as I was walking down the hallway, Luke and Jake Fisher flat out tackled me,” Allen Tong, former math teacher, said. “They dropped me to the floor and pinned me to the ground. It was just their way of telling me they liked me.”

Tong’s 20 years of service on campus procured respect along with camaraderie from students.

“I think the students respected me as a teacher but they knew that they could have fun and joke around with me,” Tong said.

Tong began teaching on campus as a math and science teacher in August 1982.

“When I came to Fresno, my wife and I were attending EV Free,” Tong said. “The organist at the church was Tim Wilkins, the superintendent at Fresno Christian. He found out that I was a math teacher and asked me if I’d be interested in teaching at Fresno Christian; I began that August.”

Throughout his years teaching, Tong brought excitement and passion to his classes, doing his best to bring the subject alive for students.

“Most of the students I’ve had at Fresno Christian who have had me would say I’m pretty passionate in the classroom,” Tong said. “I get fired up- really fired up, even intense. I think sometimes the students thought that was pretty funny.

Principal recalls Tong’s passion

Principal Gary Schultz saw Tong’s heart for his students.

“Mr. Tong was the true student teacher,” Schultz said. “His concern was more for the students than even the subject. He had a heart concern for the students’ total life; physical well-being, social status, and academic progress but most of all, their spiritual life. He truly understood what it meant to be a Christian teacher.”

Everyday occurances brought laughter to Tong’s class.

“I also said some things that were pretty predictable; the students made fun of that. Everyday I used to say, ‘for your enjoyment, here’s your assignment,’ as I was giving homework.”

Relationships formed in and out of the classroom changed the dynamics on campus for Tong and his students alike.

Tong’s legacy build on relationships

“I coached girls’ basketball for eight years,” Tong said. “The girls were successful and did their best. We won championships and we still have those relationships we formed.”

Even through hard times these relationships only grew into stronger, unbreakable bonds.

“I was coaching one girls’ playoff game where we lost by one point,” Tong said. “All the girls were crying in the locker room. The girls on that team that went through such a sad experience but I still have relationships with those girls. You can’t really replace that. Now they are grown women, mothers; they have careers. They remember wins and losses but more than that, they remember the relationships. You can’t put a price on that.”

For Tong, coming to work everyday was made worthwhile through his interaction with various students.

“In my view it’s the students that make the school,” Tong said. “The relationships that I had with the students were the very best thing that came out of working at Fresno Christian. I still talk to some of the students who came out of Fresno Christian 20 years ago.”

Catching up with former students, listening to recollections and knowing that his impact made a difference in students’ lives is a highlight for Tong.

“It’s a great thing to be able to walk around and bump into former students who are now adults,” Tong said. “They come up and talk to me and give me a hug. It feels good to know they remember me.

“We talk about school and they usually have a kind word to say about Fresno Christian and me. It’s heartwarming- more than just teaching math, I get to see them grow and develop and challenge and push them.”

Teen issues as important as mathmatic equations

Challenging students in their Christian walks as well as in their class work was important to Tong. Sharing on a daily basis with students formed a strong foundation of trust between teacher and students.

“I think the kids appreciated that I gave devotional thoughts on a pretty regular basis,” Tong said. “I’m not the Bible teacher but I think my perspective was more common. I talked a lot about teen issues and things that high schoolers faced. The kids, I think, responded to that. I had many one-on-one conversations during times of joy and sorrow.”

The atmosphere created by students and fellow teachers alike on campus transformed an ordinary job into a way of life.

“Fresno Christian is not just a place to work,” Tong said. “For me, it was like a ministry and a place where you lived it [faith]. I had no trouble coming to work and putting in tons and tons of hours; it was something I was used to doing.

“[I was used to] getting there early and leaving late, and spending lots of time with students. I used to be the announcer at basketball and football games and I used to work the clock. I was so much a part of the Fresno Christian environment, from athletics to homecoming; it was just so much a part of my life.”

Along with the other staff members, Tong saw the difference he was making in students lives and his ability to influence students as a great opportunity.

Teachers do make a difference

“There are a lot of teachers who come through and work there. It’s not just work but feeling like you make a difference working with the students, helping them grow. Teachers are agents for change; they can make a difference.

“The relationships that God allows to happen are such blessings. The teachers there make a difference; they aren’t just putting in time of getting a paycheck.”

One fellow teacher in particular influenced Tong’s life. Greg Page, dean of men, suggested that Tong interview for a job off campus just to learn more about himself.

“Every lunchtime, Mr. Page and I would walk around, through the neighborhood,” Tong said. “We would talk about different things. He would tell me about the things he was looking at and I would listen and support him.

“One of the things he said to me was, ?You know Allan, you are pretty comfortable with what you do, as a part of Fresno Christian.’

I told him, ?You’re right, I am [comfortable on campus].’

He suggested that I go out and apply somewhere; he said maybe I would learn something about myself during interviews.”

At first, applying elsewhere did not appeal to Tong.

“I didn’t thing I want to do that, I was happy at Fresno Christian and I thought I would retire there,” Tong said. “But, I looked in the newspaper and I saw an ad for a small school that was looking for a math and science teacher. It was like a God thing. I filled out an application but I didn’t hear anything for about a month. Then they called for an interview so I told Mr. [Gary] Schultz and went in for a two-hour interview.

A new challenge led Tong to Madera

“After I left, I thought to myself, ‘I could work for them and they need me. It would be different and a challenge.'”

Tong accepted a job at Buena Vista High School in Madera. His job has expanded from solely teaching math to encompass a variety of work.

“I still teach math,” Tong said. “I’m also a lead teacher, like a vice principal; I’m involved in Acadec [Academic Decathlon] and I’m a mentor for newer teachers in our district.”

For many teachers on campus, Tong’s switch to Buena Vista brought tough changes.

“For me, Mr. Tong’s leaving was hard,” Page said. “He was a good friend and a great teacher. At his new school, they’re letting him run everything; that shows what a good teacher he is. He is teaching other teachers how to teach. He was a real, true man of God.”

Moving to a new school has given Tong a chance to take what he learned on campus to a different group of people.

“Many things that I am doing now are things that I learned before,” Tong said. “It’s a new setting and a new school; I’m now the old guy, lots of new teachers are looking to me for guidance. I’m involved in how the school should run. Now I talk to parents and worry about discipline, it’s a much different job. Now I am taking all my experience and applying it to a new school, starting from the bottom and developing it.”

Being an important part of the staff has long been part of Tong’s life.

“He often would come into my office and sit down and be silent for a few minutes, during that time he would just sit and pray and somehow could sense the problems or concerns I was having,” Schultz said. “He made it a priority to pray with me on a regular basis. His support of the administration was impeccable and he’d carry out his job with accountability and professionalism. In this way he was a principals teacher as well, a true team player.”

For more information, contact Tong at (559)-447-9565 or contact the high school office at 559-299-1695.

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