SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and once again this year, NewsChannel 9 is paying tribute to members of the AAPI community making a difference throughout Central New York.

This week on Asian Americans Standing Strong, NewsChannel 9 is featuring Thien An Huynh-Boyle, a fourth grade teacher at Van Duyn Elementary School in the city of Syracuse.

As soon as you walk into room 225, you can feel the joy inside of Mrs. Huynh-Boyle’s classroom. The love she that has for her students is evident, but it’s also clear how much the students love her.

“I love and adore everything about the Syracuse City School District. That’s why I came back and taught because growing up I had such a good experience at SCSD as a student who didn’t speak English for about a year when I first came here.”


Growing up, Thien An attended Frazer Elementary School in Syracuse before she graduated from Nottingham High School in 2010. Then, she went on to study at Cazenovia College, Utica College, and SUNY Oswego to pursue her education career.

Before Thien An could fulfill her dreams in America, many sacrifices were made.

Thien An was born in the Philippines not long after her parents escaped the war in Vietnam. For the first six years of her life, she and her family lived in a refugee camp before moving to the north side of Syracuse to start their new beginning.

“I never went to school prior to Syracuse because we lived in a refugee camp in the Philippines,” Thien An said. “It was such a huge culture shock for me.”

She nor her parents spoke any English when they immigrated to Central New York. The culture shock and search to find her new identity in the United States created challenges for Thien An.

Growing up, I almost was always ashamed of my Vietnamese culture because the language is different, the food is different, and I, even as an adult have had people make comments about the way I eat, the way I speak, that it sounds funny or whatever. I have been ashamed of my culture for so long that I hid it for so much of my life that it honestly caused me to not know who I was. It made me shy. It made me insecure. It made me want to hide who I was because of the comments in society and the stereotypes that comes with being Asian


As an adult, Thien An has come to proudly embrace her Vietnamese upbringing, culture, and family traditions.

“It’s almost like now I am able to be my most authentic self. I feel like I’m such a better human being and teacher because I know who I am solidified as a person, and I can share that with my kids.”


As a teacher, it’s important for Thien An to share her culture with her students through history lessons, celebrations like Lunar New Year, and even by feeding the kids some of her mother’s homemade Vietnamese staples.

“The empathy that these kids are showing just tells me that the decision I’ve made is going to make their life so much more enriched when they grow up,” Thien An explained. “When they meet another Asian American, they’re going to be able to say ‘where are you from’ respectfully and share their knowledge of what they experienced with Asian Americans when they were growing up.”

Thien An hopes by opening up to her students about her experiences as an Asian American, it will encourage them to celebrate who they are.

“I would tell them that what you are, the culture, the family that you come from is magical. It’s unique. It’s wonderful. I want the little kids to embrace and love who they are…every single piece of it.”


Thien An’s parents own and operate Susu’s Produce. Her family sells exotic and locally grown fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and flowers at the Downtown Farmers Market in Clinton Square.