Meet Crystal Chen Lee: Critical Care for Self, Community & World is a Foundation for Learning Practices

Crystal Lee Chen

“I chose the NC State College of Education because I find the collaborative and innovative environment at NC State as one that advances issues of diversity, access and social justice, a stance that I have embraced from a high school English teacher to a doctoral candidate,” says the assistant professor of English education.

This is part of a series of profiles of faculty who joined the College of Education in 2017.

Crystal Chen Lee

Title: Assistant Professor of English Education
Education: Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Teaching, Columbia University; Master of Education in English Language Arts, Rutgers Graduate School of Education; Bachelor of Arts in Teaching with minor in psychology, Rutgers College Honors Program.
Experience: Doctoral Research Fellow, Office of Teacher Education, Teachers College, Columbia University; Lead Graduate Research Assistant and Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Curriculum and Teaching, Teachers College, Columbia University; Graduate Assistant, Center for African Education, Teachers College, Columbia University; Literacy Instructor and Teaching Assistant/Course Assistant, Department of Curriculum and Teaching, Teachers College, Columbia University; Adjunct Faculty, Montclair State University; English Teacher, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School (Bridgewater, New Jersey); Forensics Speech and Debate Team Coach and Co-Advisor, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School (Bridgewater, New Jersey); Lead Professional Development Coach, Center for the Professional Education of Teachers (CPET), Teachers College, Columbia University; Zankel Urban Fellow, Center for the Professional Education of Teachers, Teachers College, Columbia University; and Education Intern, Internal Justice Mission, Congressional Civic Fellow, House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Why I Chose the NC State College of Education: The NC State College of Education has an excellent reputation in preparing teachers to enter the profession. Particularly, I chose the NC State College of Education because I find the collaborative and innovative environment at NC State as one that advances issues of diversity, access and social justice, a stance that I have embraced from a high school English teacher to a doctoral candidate.

Why I Chose the Field of Education: My career as an educator began as a high school English teacher in New Jersey. As a teacher and debate coach, I taught my students to appreciate, question, and sometimes challenge the ways in which we think, read, write, and act upon the world. Through volunteering and becoming involved in social action projects with my students at school and outside of school, I found that I wanted to expand this focus beyond the classroom by connecting nonprofits and organizations to high school teachers and students. I entered into the research field of education in order to bridge this gap.

My Research Interests: My dissertation extends from my first passion in examining literacy from a social justice stance — one that includes the values and advocacy of families and multiple stakeholders who work to improve education for traditionally marginalized communities. With this stance, I embarked on a three-year dissertation study on critical literacy among African immigrant adolescent girls in New York City and community-based organizations. In my research, I highlight student voices to not only describe the challenges and intersections of social praxis, but also to draw upon the girls’ multiple academic and personal strengths to inform how teacher educators can meet the literacy needs of English language learners.

How I Became Interested in Those Fields: From my own experience as a high school English teacher, my work as a research fellow of an urban teacher residency program, and my passion to expand upon power of leveraging multilingualism among English language learners in academic spaces. I wanted to investigate how critical care for the self, community and world is a foundation for learning practices.

My Teaching Philosophy: In addition to my own research on critical literacy among English language learners, my teaching has largely focused on adolescent literacy, disciplinary literacy, and English pedagogy. My teaching philosophy of teaching students to appreciate, question and sometimes challenge the ways in which we think, read, write and act upon the world has not changed; rather, I now expand it as a professor of aspiring teachers. I want teachers to find great joy in re-imagining the learning and assessment of students’ reading and writing in order to foster an environment that engages in critical thinking.

What I Hope Students Learn From Me: NC State is a vibrant institution that is dedicated to working with diverse communities, and one that responds to the challenges that are present in an ever-changing world. I am looking forward to working with students who empower education and bring passion through the written and spoken word — and onto the world.