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Future Teacher Esther Lee Shares Her Hopes to Harness Passion for the Arts in the Classroom


Becoming a Teacher
When I become a teacher, I want to stress the importance of the arts to students, especially for the youngest ones. I believe students need to learn how to express themselves through art. It helps that I’m very versatile and creative because of my dance and music background, and I’m excited to bring my knowledge to the classroom by incorporating art into curriculum and learning.

The truth is, I’ve always loved to teach, and I always knew I had a natural talent for it. My earliest memory of teaching is from 4th grade, when a foreign exchange student from South Korea became one of my classmates. The first day the new girl arrived, I remember thinking, “I just know I want to help this girl and translate for her and be her friend.” I, too, have a South Korean background, and I grew up in a small town in New Jersey with a high population of Korean immigrants. I’m sure that’s one of the big reasons why I had a lot of empathy and passion for helping English language learners. And since my dad owns a tutoring business, I could hardly avoid exposure to education; it gave me the opportunity to help immigrant children with their English homework nearly every day.

Dance and Music, Her Passions
I started playing the violin when I was a young child, and stopped when I started dancing at age 11. So every day while I was growing up, I was either playing the violin or dancing; like teaching, both are passions for me. And I love performing to this day and I always wanted to give back. I learned very early that teaching younger children and being an example to them in the arts, too, gives me a way to cultivate all of my passions at the same time.

Goals, Compassion and Cultural Awareness
I have so many short and long-term goals for my teaching career – and it’s important to me to be respected and known for compassion and cultural awareness. I really want to be the kind of teacher that kids thank many years later, one who is easy to approach and also means business when it comes to learning. I think it’s a skill to find the balance between professional and approachable – I want to be trusted to be able to do that.”

I’ve noticed during my student teaching at [NYC’s] P.S. 145, the Bloomingdale School, how much students need social interaction in elementary school. It’s important to keep in mind that socialization is a skill that’s largely built in school. I’ve learned from Fordham’s supportive and tight-knit community this great sense of how to build the kind of classroom culture that will really nurture students. I really think I found my home at Fordham, including a love of the diversity and vibrancy of the city. Right now, I’m embracing the challenges of the pandemic and looking forward to figuring out how to best teach my students both in person and online.

I’m truly grateful to all of my professors and mentors, especially literacy education professor Arlene Moliterno, Ph.D., and Director of Field-Based Education and Accountability Karen Andronico. They are representative of a whole Fordham community, which is so supportive. As part of that, I am truly blessed, grateful, and humbled to receive the Rowe scholarship.


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