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Finding a Voice: Jennifer Stocklin, Ed.M.'12

Jennifer Stocklin, Ed.M.'12It’s been a rewarding year for Jennifer Stocklin, Ed.M.’12, a respected English teacher at KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate High School in Lynn, Massachusetts. This spring Stocklin was selected as a top-10 finalist for the TNTP Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, awarded annually to exceptionally effective teachers working in high-poverty public schools.

Urban education has long been a focus for Stocklin. A Teach For America corps member, Stocklin enrolled in HSGE’s Learning and Teaching Program as part of the Urban Scholars Fellowship, a program that provides financial support to talented educators in the Ed School’s master’s programs who have dedicated and will continue to dedicate their careers to urban education.

“Providing high-quality education for every child is a moral imperative if we truly want to live up to the ideals of a public education system and a democratic society,” she says of her commitment to urban education. “Too often, our society focuses on controlling our urban students’ bodies and behavior rather listening to and learning from their intellects, their minds.”

KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate, where Stocklin teaches courses including AP English Language and Composition, is part of a national network of free, open-enrollment, public charter schools dedicated to preparing students in underserved communities for success.

“My students face daily the challenges of poverty, of immigration, of language barriers, of an oppressive and racist society,” says Stocklin, “and yet they still consistently outperform the global mean on every type of essay on the AP English Language exam. An AP exam isn't everything, but it is one indicator that our students growing up in poverty are complex and capable thinkers, and that our students' perspectives and voices matter.”

In August, Stocklin was one of 12 national winners of the Harriet Ball Excellence in Teaching Award. The annual Ball Award — given in honor of the inspirational teacher and her contributions to the KIPP organization — also comes with a $10,000 prize.

While Stocklin was aware that she had been nominated for the Fishman Prize and participated in its extended application process, the Ball Award win came as a total surprise. “I didn’t realize my principal had nominated me,” says Stocklin. “I feel very lucky and humbled and honored to have received this award. I work very hard, but so do thousands of other teachers.” 

To her principal and colleagues, Stocklin is clearly deserving. As part of the Fishman Prize nomination process, they described her as “one of the most meticulous, focused, and reflective teachers we’ve ever met.” 

Stocklin’s passion and dedication have always been part of her teaching. At her first assignment — as a 12th-grade AP Literature teacher at Central High School in Helena, Arkansas — Stocklin developed the school’s literature program and increased the exam pass rate from 0 to 23 percent in just two years. Since joining KIPP in 2012, Stocklin has made an extraordinary impact on its students. Under her leadership, three times as many students are taking AP English Language and Composition and KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate has the highest number of students pass the 2016 exam in the entire KIPP network.

Stocklin’s particular passion is writing, and she works hard to teach her students how to construct an argument, how to consider their audience, and how to anticipate how that audience may perceive their words. Stocklin wants her students to understand the broad impact of being able to write well.

“Fiction and poetry are relevant and beautiful. But students also need access to text that shows how important writing can be in other forms,” explains Stocklin. “Whether one of my students wants to go off and study history or wants to be involved in medicine, what we do in our class is going to be applicable because they are going to need to speak and write strong arguments that are part of the larger conversation in their fields for the rest of their lives.”

Of equal importance to Stocklin is helping her students find their own voices — and exposing those voices to the wider world.

“I believe so much that my students’ writing is worthwhile and that they’re writing about serious things that should be read by people other than me,” says Stocklin. “The number one thing I care about is how we can get our students’ writing out into the world so that their voices can be heard.”

Stocklin is using the recent honors as additional motivation to make herself a better educator, so that she can improve things for her students. “I feel encouraged by this recognition, because on a day-to-day basis, I’m just trying to get better and help my students get better. I’ve seen results, but I also know how much more I want us to achieve,” she says.