Alumni Spotlight: Stella Lui Chen
January 17, 2013 - In Stella Lui Chen’s second grade classroom, college is a regular topic of conversation – and according to a packet of letters her students recently wrote to Penn GSE, Penn is the currently the top choice for most of her students.
Chen, a 2008 graduate of Penn GSE’s Teacher Education Program, teaches at Carolee Booker Elementary School, a Title 1 school in Houston, Texas. Booker Elementary is part of the No Excuses University Network, a group of elementary and middle schools across the country that actively promotes college readiness.
In support of Chen’s efforts to educate her students about colleges and universities they could attend one day, Penn GSE donated a boxful of GSE gifts to her classroom. “My students were so excited when the box arrived,” Chen said. “Pennsylvania is so far away for them, so learning about Penn was very exciting. It’s given them some inspiration.”
The gifts included Penn GSE lanyards, sticky notes, key chains, pens, and folders – all of which were a big hit. Chen reports that her students wear their Penn GSE lanyards every day – some parents even report they are worn to bed – and immediately asked if they could write thank you letters to share their gratitude and excitement.
“Thank you for all of the thoughtful donations. Thank you for educating Mrs. Chen,” one student wrote. Already planning for the future, another student wrote, “Our class has been learning about Penn and it sounds wonderful. I hope to go to your school when I graduate high school.” A third student expressed gratitude for her top-notch teacher: “Thank you for teaching Ms. Chen. You gave her support so she would be good at teaching. I am glad she is at Booker Elementary.”
Chen shares her students’ enthusiasm for Penn GSE. “I really wanted to go to Penn, to the Teacher Education Program specifically, because I knew it was one of the best. I really wanted to be inspired, and I was,” she said. “I had a wonderful experience.” She credits the progressive, hands-on activities and classroom management techniques she learned in the Teacher Ed Program with helping her students be successful. “My kids are so open to learning, and they all learn a different way,” she said. “I see a lot of differences in the techniques that I’ve brought from Penn GSE. They’ve really helped a lot.”
In her own thank you letter to GSE, Chen wrote that her students “were absolutely touched” by the gifts and were excited to learn that they could go to college in another state. In an effort to build on the success of this project and encourage more students to consider attending college, Penn GSE is launching a microgrant fund to support the donation of GSE gifts to classrooms in low-income neighborhoods. Donations to the fund can be made here.