Wan Park is one of 50 teachers selected to be part of Team TCS Teachers, an initiative that selects teachers from across North America to run 26.2 miles in New York City. Serving as a Team TCS teacher is meaningful to him in many ways.
“I feel like I won the lottery. I also feel like they recognize teachers and celebrate being a teacher. I really appreciate that,” she said.
Wan lives in Kew Gardens and teaches pre-calculus and algebra to high school students at the Social Justice Community School in the South Bronx, located near Mile 19 of the TCS New York City Marathon course. It’s important to ensure consistency for students, she said.
“Being there for kids every day so they can learn from the same source and the same people who are there for them,” he said. “This is what running is like for me. “I know it’s always there, and if I can tap into it, I can have a good day.”
Before becoming a teacher, Wan was an engineer but was unhappy with his job. In 2002, his then-girlfriend and now-wife moved to New York and began looking for a change.
“My friend, who is a teacher, said that we always need teachers. “That led me to apply for the New York City Teaching Fellows,” he said. “I want all kids to be able to do something great. And math kind of leads to that. I really want them to see the beauty of math.”
Wan started running when he was 14 years old after emigrating from South Korea. He joined the football team at school, but had difficulty understanding instructions at practice so he took up running instead.
“Then it was obvious what you had to do. [start] the gun went off,” Wan said.
He competed in 200, 400 and 800 meter sprint races in high school and then started running 5K in college. He embraced longer distance and eventually ran his first marathon after college while living in Florida, then qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon.
He said his students, who saw him and another teacher at the school going for a run nearby, asked him about training for the TCS New York City marathon.
“They ask [us], ‘How does it feel to run 26.2 miles? Why are you doing this?’ “We tell them, it’s something you can do if you put your mind to it,” he said.
Wan last ran the New York City Marathon in 2011 and was looking forward to experiencing it again.
“I think it’s a celebration of all the training you’ve done, and it’s almost like a giant party for New York City with everyone applauding you,” Wan said.
Wan is part of #TeamInspire at the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon, a diverse group of runners whose stories tell the power of running to change lives. Read more #TeamInspire stories at the links below:
Mandy Kwan: Going Away With My Family
Margot Fleming: Running in Memory of a Champion
Aubrey Barr: Beating the Odds
Tricia Quartey-Sagaille: Black Mother Runs for Her Health
Roman Kashpur: Pushing the Boundaries