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Đàm Lê Đức, Educator Extraordinaire and Matriarch of 218 Lý Tự Trọng, Passes Away at 91

If there’s such a thing as a celebrity teacher, Madame Đàm Lê Đức would be a shining example of Saigon’s educator extraordinaire.

On May 6, the management of Đức Trí Secondary and High School confirmed with local media that one of the school’s founders, Madame Đàm Lê Đức, had passed away at 91 years old. Đức’s main specialty was mathematics, though generations of students in Saigon mostly know her as the matriarch behind famed tuition center 218 Lý Tự Trọng.

While Đức has spent decades teaching math to students from north to south, over the years she cultivated a reputation as an educator who places equal, if not more, emphasis on imparting life lessons to students. A lecture on morality and study approaches that Đức gave a few years ago even went viral online.

According to VnExpress, Madame Đàm Lê Đức was born in 1932 in Quảng Ninh Province into a family with a pedagogical background. At 12, she was accepted into Hanoi’s École Normale D'institutrices Annamites, a female-only teaching school that’s known as Đồng Khánh in Vietnamese. Family upheaval forced Đức to abandon her studies to return home, where she helped run the household’s silkworm workshop.

At 18, her eldest sister sent Đức back to Hanoi to attend courses in European and Vietnamese tailoring. Completing both with distinction, she came back home to set up a tailoring shop. After the 1954 Geneva Conference, she was allowed to continue her studies in Hanoi at age 22. Her brother taught her math and she managed to get accepted into Đồng Khánh again, which at the time had become Trưng Vương and was offering co-ed classes.

At 25, Đức successfully enrolled in the Mathematics Department of the University of Hanoi in one of the college’s first batches of math majors. Following her graduation, she taught high school- and university-level math in Hải Phòng before relocating to Saigon in 1983 to teach statistics at the University of Economics HCMC.

In 1985, Đức and a group of retired teachers got together to establish a tuition center at the address 218 Lý Tự Trọng Street, and in 2010, Đức and her siblings founded the Đức Trí Secondary and High School. Since then, 218 Lý Tự Trọng has expanded beyond its initial address into an institution spanning numerous classes for all grades. It’s known for a stringent code of conduct and operations typically not observed in other extracurricular tuition services.

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