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Sau Ling "Charlene"

Sau Ling "Charlene"

High School Science International High School for Health Sciences, Queens

Charlene teaches ninth and 10th-grade Living Environments at the International High School for Health Sciences in Queens, a new school focused on helping non-English speaking immigrant students acquire English language skills for successful college study in the health sciences. A teacher since 1996, she founded the International Student and Teacher Exchange Program (ISTEP) and served as the Science Research Director of Advanced Science Research at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. She’s also won several teaching awards, including the 2013 Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics for the City of New York and the 2011 Inspirational High School Teacher Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

My Students Teach Me the Power of Curiosity

I don’t want to just help my students learn English, I want to stimulate their thinking. For example, one of my typical lessons didn’t intrigue them. I wondered if language was the barrier. So I did something different: I didn’t talk at all while demonstrating an experiment. To my surprise, students who normally didn’t pay attention were staring at everything I did. At the end of class, they told me their mind was racing because I made them wonder why I was doing this or doing that. Unintentionally, they challenged me to be a better teacher for a diverse group of students.

I Engage with Educators around the World

Working and living in New York City affords you with a range of opportunities you don’t see elsewhere. I’ve been able to engage with educators from Singapore, Netherlands and Thailand. Through ISTEP, I have worked with over 30 different institutions and 200 scientists, disseminating their research and collaborating with them. This kind of experience is very rare, if not unheard of.

I Use the City to Unlock Opportunities for My Students

Once, a stranger in a university elevator asked what I was doing in the building. When I told him I was searching for mentors, he immediately agreed to help. Turns out, he worked for one of the most prestigious laboratories in the university. His team later selected one of my students to conduct biomedical engineering research in his lab. The lucky student was named a co-author on a scientific paper and a finalist at the New York City Science and Engineering Fair—and was accepted to MIT! While I have heard of people in business use the phrase "elevator pitch," I never thought that I’d prove that it works!

The kind of classroom you will have has a lot to do with what you are willing to make of it.