For her first undergraduate student teaching job, Phoebe Lee faced a world history class filled with recent immigrants—some of whom older than she was—at Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School. Comprised of international students, including a Chinese student who had been in New York for only six days, the class would represent a challenge even for veteran teachers. But with a passion and gusto that is reflective of her spirited personality, Lee dove headlong into the challenge.
“I really wanted the students to make the most of their experience, regardless of their English skills” she said. “So I thought a lot about how to adapt the curriculum. While I knew I needed to build their writing and reading skills, I also used a lot of visuals aids and multimedia in my instruction.”
Lee has long been involved in advocacy efforts on behalf of communities most in need. This semester, she was selected for the Civic Leaders of Tomorrow Fellowship organized by Manhattan Borough president Scott M. Stringer. She interns with the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, a pan-Asian children’s advocacy organization, where she focuses on projects aimed at English-language access for immigrant youth.
Growing up with a father who is a dentist, Lee loved to interact with her father’s young patients, and help teach them to enjoy going to the dentist. This experience led her to found a project, funded by a grant from MTVu, called Big O’Smile, which sends teaching volunteers into first-grade classrooms to demonstrate proper brushing using dental puppets. The project has presented in more than a dozen schools in New York City.
Lee plans to pursue graduate work in education, with an eye towards working in the field of education policy. She’s eager to craft policies that will help immigrant communities and to provide access to resources. “I’ve always had big dreams,” she said.