Scholar Spotlight: Zankel Urban Fellow Crystal Chen

Crystal Chen is a Zankel Urban Fellow and worked in PS 36 as a professional development coach.

From the moment Crystal Chen met her fifth graders from P.S. 36, she knew they were more than just students; they were “real authors,” who would publish their work. As a Zankel fellow and doctoral candidate, Crystal served as a teaching artist and professional development coach through the Student Press Initiative at the Center for Professional Education of Teachers at Teachers College. She was placed at two school sites: P.S. 36 in Harlem and P.S. 305 in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

At P.S. 36, she worked with a group of fifth graders after school. Throughout the fall and winter months, they curated a collection of short stories, narratives, poems, and portraits titled Our Harlem: Stories from the Hearts and Minds of Students in Harlem. “The experience was incredible in that we explored the city together; the students even went to Columbia University for the first time as a class,” said Crystal. Although the students lived just five blocks away from the university, they had never entered its gates. “One cold winter afternoon, I took the students to campus to see the Christmas lights—asking them to write down what they saw, heard, touched, felt, and smelled. Their writing improved from week to week, and resulted in a public reading of their published works in the Cowin Auditorium at TC.”

Crystal also taught five classes of grades second through fifth at P.S. 305. In addition to direct instruction, Crystal coached teachers on how to teach creative writing. In total, 90 students from the school curated the anthology From Where We’re From: A Poetry Anthology of Elementary Students in Brooklyn, an exploration of students’ personal histories, communities, and culture. Because P.S. 305 is home to students from very different backgrounds, the poetry anthology enabled students to hear one another’s stories. Some shared their experiences as refugees from Yemen; others, as immigrants from Puerto Rico. The book was published in June 2015, and the entire school community came together to celebrate its published authors.

Published Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015

Scholar Spotlight: Zankel Urban Fellow Crystal Chen

Crystal Chen is a Zankel Urban Fellow and worked in PS 36 as a professional development coach.

From the moment Crystal Chen met her fifth graders from P.S. 36, she knew they were more than just students; they were “real authors,” who would publish their work. As a Zankel fellow and doctoral candidate, Crystal served as a teaching artist and professional development coach through the Student Press Initiative at the Center for Professional Education of Teachers at Teachers College. She was placed at two school sites: P.S. 36 in Harlem and P.S. 305 in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

At P.S. 36, she worked with a group of fifth graders after school. Throughout the fall and winter months, they curated a collection of short stories, narratives, poems, and portraits titled Our Harlem: Stories from the Hearts and Minds of Students in Harlem. “The experience was incredible in that we explored the city together; the students even went to Columbia University for the first time as a class,” said Crystal. Although the students lived just five blocks away from the university, they had never entered its gates. “One cold winter afternoon, I took the students to campus to see the Christmas lights—asking them to write down what they saw, heard, touched, felt, and smelled. Their writing improved from week to week, and resulted in a public reading of their published works in the Cowin Auditorium at TC.”

Crystal also taught five classes of grades second through fifth at P.S. 305. In addition to direct instruction, Crystal coached teachers on how to teach creative writing. In total, 90 students from the school curated the anthology From Where We’re From: A Poetry Anthology of Elementary Students in Brooklyn, an exploration of students’ personal histories, communities, and culture. Because P.S. 305 is home to students from very different backgrounds, the poetry anthology enabled students to hear one another’s stories. Some shared their experiences as refugees from Yemen; others, as immigrants from Puerto Rico. The book was published in June 2015, and the entire school community came together to celebrate its published authors.

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