Strategic Science, With a Passion | Teachers College Columbia University

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Strategic Science, With a Passion

Strategic Science, With a Passion
Growing up in Korea, Helena Han had teachers whom she admired. But it wasn’t until she moved to Vancouver as teenager that she understood the difference that a good teacher—or, in her case, the absence of one—can make in someone’s life. “I was learning a foreign language, and struggling with my social skills. My teacher really didn’t know what to do with me. I ended up requesting a transfer out of the district.” It’s not hard to understand, then, why Han has found the CABAS program at Teachers College so fulfilling. Its mission—to bring language to those lacking it—is one that even now, having mastered not only English, but also Japanese (part of her double major, along with psychology, at the University of British Columbia), Han feels passionately about. But even more important is that its methods really work.

“We have the tools that are research-based and shown to be effective for many children through numerous replicated studies, and we have the skills and the hours of training to apply those tools that children will learn,” she says. “And as they have grown, I have grown to be able to help them more. I am stronger, more confident, more data-driven—and most importantly, I’m not just a technician, but, as Dr. Greer says, a strategic scientist.”

The program has left her little time for social life, and as she enters the CABAS Ph.D. program at TC, the challenge will only get steeper. But the payoff has been enormous. “Seeing students, who did not say a word when they walked into the classroom in the beginning of the school year, talk now as if they have always been talking touches my heart moment to moment.”

Published Wednesday, May. 11, 2011