By Marielle Mohs

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities educator has passed away from COVID-19.

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Choua Yang worked at Prairie Seeds Academy Charter School in Brooklyn Park. She was serving in a new role as chief executive officer, but before that she was the school’s principal for more than a decade.

The school says she passed away on Friday after battling the infectious disease.

Kou Vang is shocked by the loss of his former principal. He used to work as a special education teacher for Yang.

“She was pretty much the backbone of that school,” Vang said. “Just that kind of like bond where you would want in a boss, you know. Not someone who would boss you around, but someone who will listen to you and get things done.”

Yang was most well-known for being the principal at Prairie Seeds Academy (PSA) Charter School, which she founded with her husband in 2004 as a place for Hmong-American Minnesotans to be a part of a greater community.

“This school was pretty much the bridge for the Hmong Americans who wanted that American dream,” Vang said.

Yang served as the principal of PSA since 2008, and became its CEO this year. The school administration says under her leadership, enrollment increased and the achievement gap improved.

Tou Ger Xiong is part of the current PSA administration.

“The school started with about 100 students in 2004. Now, actually, we’re over 800 students,” Xiong said.

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He said Yang contracted the virus in late August, despite taking safety precautions very seriously and keeping the school closed this fall.

“We fit the model of going back to a hybrid because we’re in that county, but I know she worked really hard on making sure that students and staff were safe before returning to school,” Xiong said.

Choua was a mother to five and a grandmother to dozens more. Some of her grandchildren even attended her school.

“In the Hmong-American Minnesota community, she’s a pillar because she’s a leader, a visionary, she’s a pioneer,” Xiong said.

As an immigrant from Laos, she brought to the United States what she believed was missing in education, in the hopes to watch more immigrant children succeed.

“We have to carry on her legacy,” Vang said.

Choua’s family has established a GoFundMe account to cover funeral costs.

The school gave this statement to WCCO:

A lifelong educator, Choua served as the Principal of PSA since 2008 and became its Chief Executive Officer in 2020. Under her leadership, PSA increased its enrollment and student success, providing thousands of students with an outstanding education. There was nothing more important to her than the students of PSA.  She celebrated their successes, cared deeply when they were troubled and needed help, and was devoted to making things better for every student, family, and staff member at PSA. Most importantly she believed in giving her students the opportunity to actualize PSA’s mission, to be, inspired global thinkers, who will understand the importance of inquiry, lifelong learning, intercultural awareness, respect, and adaptability as they become future leaders.’

Choua understood and valued the importance of education and devoted her entire career to the profession, starting in 1996 with her first teaching job.  Over the years, Choua served in multiple leadership roles with the Minneapolis Public Schools and St. Paul Public Schools before joining PSA as its principal. She was an exceptional leader who served with humility and contributed immensely to the growth of many teachers, principals, and administrators. Those that have been fortunate to work with Choua will remember her constant encouragement and above all, her kindness.

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Choua loved life. While life presented challenges and obstacles, she embraced it with a smile and always trusted that everything happened for a reason. Her entire life was dedicated to serving others. She lifted us with her humor and high spirits and was a constant light during troubled times.

Marielle Mohs