“Look at My Capabilities and Talents” — Instructional Assistant Dedicated to Lifelong Learning

By Office of Communications
Employee News
March 12, 2024

Twenty years ago, Sam Kang accepted an all-expenses-paid special internship on Capitol Hill. This opportunity relocated him, his wife, Susan, and their two children from Los Angeles to Northern Virginia. Eventually, both Sam and Susan found their perfect fit within FCPS. He has worked for two years as an instructional assistant at Stone Middle School. She is a bus attendant. Their children have graduated from Oakton and Chantilly high schools.

Sam was born and raised in South Korea. When he was a baby, he fell from a swing which resulted in medical complications. During this time, he contracted the polio virus which caused permanent paralysis in parts of Sam’s body.  

Sam on graduation day
Sam at his graduation from 
UC Berkeley where he majored in Sociology.

Despite these early hardships, Sam does not let them interfere with his personal and professional aspirations. “[I want people not to] look at my body. Look at my capabilities and talents,” he continues “I really enjoy my life. When I found my talents, I [worked hard] to develop myself.” 

More than 30 years ago, Sam taught himself how to play guitar and sing. While in Korea, he opened a studio to teach guitar. At Stone, he created the after-school guitar club where he continues to share his love of music.

As Sam got older, he noticed it was becoming more difficult to use his fingers to play guitar. He discovered that by using a rubberband to anchor a couple of his fingers, he could continue playing his beloved instrument. “I like to face difficulties because I enjoy finding ways to overcome them,” he says. 

Sam talking to a coworker
Sam speaking with a colleague at Stone who also is one of his former guitar students.

When applying for the job at Stone, Sam was nervous about his perceived limitations based on the job description. Principal Sonya Williams quickly quieted his uncertainties. Without Sam’s knowledge, Principal Sonya brought in a technician to ensure Sam’s accommodations would be met. This included adjusting door hinges and ensuring the elevator was running properly. These improvements are also helping other staff and students. 

Sonya's efforts did not go unnoticed. “I love this community,” Sam explains. “The school is special, the [students and staff] are kind, and the principal is fantastic. The environment and people here match exactly with me.” 

Sam's sketch
One of Sam's sketches.

"Every day Mr. Kang shows up to work with a smile on his face and ready to help in any way that is necessary throughout the building,” said Sonya. “He builds relationships with students that he monitors and encourages them on a daily basis to reach their goals."

Sam has always believed that learning is a lifelong journey which has led him down a continuous path of teaching and self-improvement. Within the past year, he has been working on a new skill — sketching. “I keep practicing every night to continue to get better." 

Sam’s next goal is in sight. “If I have the opportunity to do more. I want to create an afterschool program for students with disabilities.” He continues, “I want to help them find their talents and work with them. Eventually, I would love to expand that dream divisionwide.”