Meet Perry Watkins (M.A. ’23, Bilingual/Bicultural Education)

Dual-Language, 2nd Grade Teacher - Brooklyn, New York 

What He Loves About Teaching: For Watkins, the same earnest curiosity that led him to teach around the world in Panama, Spain and Thailand serves him well in the classroom. “Learning from my students about their backgrounds, their journeys to the United States, and just seeing them interact with one another and experience joy at school, I feel like I am constantly learning something new,” says Watkins, a graduate of the Jaffee Peace Corps Fellows Program, which provides full scholarships for returning volunteers as they teach in high-needs NYC public schools during their TC studies. A global citizen in both service and scholarship, Watkins sees his students as the most “incredible” teachers for himself in everyday life. 

Teachers College Building
Perry Watkins

His Biggest Lesson: “Let go and just be yourself. I have gotten to see how much my students appreciate getting to know the ‘me’ who is not just an authority figure in the classroom, but also someone who is funny, caring, and just another human,” says Watkins, whose diverse experiences have included teaching students of all ages and abilities, including adults. “As I am now working with such young students, I also enjoy getting to know the parents and family members, as I feel this goes a long way with building trust with my students.”

His Hope for Education’s Future: “As a dual-language teacher, one of my biggest and most prevalent hopes is that the American public school system will eventually stray away from the current obsession with high-stakes, standardized testing,” says Watkins, noting that the English-only nature of most tests put many students at a disadvantage while only offering a “limited view of our students strengths and capabilities.” Notably, Watkins’ concerns also exist across a backdrop of increasing need for bilingual education support in schools, with the National Education Association estimating that 1 in 4 U.S. students will be an English language learner by 2025. 

“I think that with opportunities like bilingual programs, we start to battle against the injustices that are apparent in our education system,” says the Brooklyn teacher, “but my hope is that education can become more equitable for all.”

Meet Anne Lattner (M.A. ’15, Social Studies Education)

Middle School History Teacher, Teachers College Community School 

What She Loves About Teaching: Seeing students apply their own lenses to primary historical sources. Recently, Lattner and her students examined how propaganda mobilized American support for World War I, with students identifying similarities to the contemporary psychological impact of social media and group-think.  “It’s rewarding to see students take their understanding of content to the point of evaluating, drawing connections, and critiquing those sources,” Lattner explains. “It shows another level of genuine interactivity.”

Teachers College Building
Anne Lattner

Her Biggest Lesson: “At the risk of sounding cliché, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through my years of teaching is the true importance of building rapport with your students,” says Lattner, who makes an effort to cultivate a bond beyond academics. In teaching students from sixth through eighth grade, Lattner is also able to remain part of their academic journey. “Watching the students mature and develop psychologically and academically has been truly humbling,” says Lattner, who has now taught for nearly a decade. “I know that despite the inevitable ups and downs of day to day teaching, at the end of the day, I’ll always be around with my door open during recess time for a quick chat or an extra-help session. This has allowed students to rely on me in a gratifying way.”

Her Hope for Education’s Future: Lattner hopes that social studies will become more integrated into all areas of education, with the educator noting findings that illustrate the subject receives less time than other subjects. “One should not negate [social studies’] importance and potential towards academic growth. I want students to continue to use their social studies instruction to build their understanding and participate in making informed decisions about the environment around them,” says Lattner, nodding to the College’s work on examining education’s key role in preparing students for civic participation. 

“Thinking critically in a way beyond reading historical texts and having the opportunity to immerse oneself in a variety of cultural aspects such as drama, music and art, also exposes students to a multitude of societies and perspectives,” says Lattner. “Familiarizing oneself to these different points of view allows students to gradually become more empathetic to other peoples’ beliefs and values.”

Meet Rebeca Madrigal (M.A. ’98, Bilingual/Bicultural Education)

Dual Language, 2nd Grade Teacher - Washington Heights, Manhattan 

What She Loves About Teaching: Madrigal loves seeing her students grow, and helping them reach their fullest potential. As Madrigal’s 27th year teaching draws to a close, the bittersweet goodbye to this year’s second graders is palpable. But knowing she “gave 100% to them and their families” propels her forward as she hopes to fatefully cross paths with them after many years and adventures. Former students will stop the educator — while driving or at the ice cream parlor — to say hello and thank her for teaching them to read or her warmth in the classroom. “That's where the love comes from, you know. They keep you in those memories and come back,” says the TC alum. “I think that's what keeps me going” 

Teachers College Building
Rebeca Madrigal

Her Biggest Lesson: Keep learning and keep collaborating — with parents, students and colleagues. For Madrigal, a willingness to learn and ask for help allows her students to do the same. “Maybe I have the wisdom, maybe I have the experience, but I want to learn because I want to be part of the collaboration on how to support [students], [and] how to support others,” says Madrigal, who lets students know when she also needs to learn something.“I say, ‘let's search it together. I don't know everything…We can learn it together.’ Being in a school, we’re always learning, we’re always innovating…They let me grow, and I like to grow.”  

Her Hope for Education’s Future: More flexibility for educators and school admin to make decisions that support unique students needs. For Madrigal, this urgent need is most vividly depicted in her school’s struggle to adapt English-only, mandated curriculum into something suitable for bilingual learners, who make up the majority of Dos Puentes Elementary. “Teachers and the schools themselves should have more say to that, you know? [We] know what is good for the students,” says Madrigal, who writes about bilingual learning alongside colleagues in a forthcoming book for educators.  

Like many teachers, Madrigal also hopes to see her students make a difference in the world. “I want them to know that they have choices and voices,” says Madrigal, who introduces students to culturally-relevant, notable figures in her lessons. On her bulletin board, decorated with pictures of everyone from Ruby Bridges to Cesar Chavez, Madrigal placed a mirror. “Who’s the next leader?” she asks her students. “You are.”