My Very Own PDK

Dear Reader,

When you’re an author, you have to give many speeches. If I had known that I would have done better at math. But that’s another story.

Anyway, it’s still kind of scary to get up and speak in front of an audience although I’ve done it a sqillion times. So I always look forward to the fall and winter months in which I hide away and write, with no speaking engagements until the spring.

But this year, because a really wonderful teacher and her classes have been writing to me for at least two years, maybe three, I accepted an invitation to visit the FACTS Charter School in Philadelphia in October, and to be their keynote speaker at a special dinner afterwards. And I was so glad I did!

FACTS (Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures) is located in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.IMG_9857 It is a public charter school, K-8, founded ten years ago by Hao-Li Tai Loh to meet the needs of immigrant and refugee students. Their mission, according to their website, “is to provide children with an education which has high academic standards, is truly community based, incorporates and respects the lives of students and their families, engages students in understanding their own cultures and communities, and engages students in understanding their role as active participants in working for a just society.”

Wow. And that is exactly what I found when I entered these doors:IMG_9858The students at FACTS learn about the arts, languages and histories of many cultures. The students, teachers and staff are multi-lingual and from many different countries.

Here I am meeting the fantastic Teacher Annie Huynh for the first time: IMG_9859Alvin Ho has been required reading in her class and she has had her fourth graders correspond with me for the past few years. She is SOOO inspiring and gifted. See that beautiful pin on her dress? She made it! Thank you Teacher Annie and fourth graders for loving Alvin and for inviting me to visit you! You’re guys are super-duper!!!

Every adult at FACTS is called Teacher, even me! I was called Teacher Lenore :). The principal, Pheng Lim, explained that that’s because they believe that every grown-up has something to teach.

Wow. That really made me think. What was I teaching?

And you know, I learn a lot from kids. They’re teachers too. And they have the qualities of the very finest teachers: wise and inspiring, accepting and non-judgmental, open and inquisitive. As an author for children, children are my best teachers.

But I digress.

I LOVED this class in African dance:IMG_9897Two artists-in-residence teach the movements and rhythms of various tribal dances. There were drums and tambourine and many smiles all around.

Teacher Annie’s fourth grade class presented me with my very own PDK:IMG_9943It’s an AUTHOR DAY SURVIVAL KIT!  I wish that I could post the photos of them presenting it to me, but I’m not allowed to post photos showing students’ faces, so these will have to do.

The inside of the lid contained this inspiring message:IMG_0025

Here’s a look at the stuff inside:IMG_9947It included this super-duper FACTS t-shirt too! IMG_9945Wow! This is the BEST PDK ever!!! It was so thoughtfully put together. THANK YOU!!!

I received other gifts too. Jocelyn made me the cutest charm/ponytail holder:IMG_9927Thank you, Joss! I am still wearing it today!

And the ultimate, biker-chick-cool gift these days … IMG_9907Shakia gave me — gasp! — a TATTOO of my name on her arm!


Is that the BADDEST, or what?!!!

If you ever have a multiple choice quiz on Alvin Ho, you could be in for some trouble.

Just saying.

Here we are in my afternoon presentation in the gym:IMG_9877

That evening, I was treated to a wonderful dinner celebrating FACTS School’s 10th anniversary. There was a traditional Chinese lion dance:IMG_9918And African dance too. See the FACTS slideshow here for more photos.

And a very delicious menu:IMG_9919IMG_9921I didn’t take any more photos than these because I had to give the keynote speech (my first ever!) and was too nervous to notice that the whole evening had gone by before I picked up my phone/camera again.

But I’ll say this. I met Hao-Li Tai Loh, the woman whose vision started this school. And I met her mother too, who told me that Hao-Li and I were born in the same year of the Tiger! Wow. I felt humbled and honored to have been invited into her amazing life’s work.

And I met many other people who share her vision and work very hard every day to give the children at FACTS the education and respect that that they deserve. Greetings and good wishes came in from all over the world via Skype.

It was a very inspiring, enchanted evening. One of the best I’ve ever had.

A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone at FACTS, students, parents, Teacher Annie, Principal Lim, Rebecca, Hao-Li, alumni and donors, for inviting me to be a part of such a special occasion. I will remember it forever.