Photo: Jill Anderson
The Intellectual Contribution Award recognizes graduating Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. Alice Zhili Wang will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for Teacher Education Program (TEP) during HGSE's Convocation exercises on May 25.
Lecturer Christina “V” Villarreal, faculty director of TEP, comments on Wang's selection: “From the moment I first met Alice on Zoom nearly two years ago, I knew I was in the presence of a compassionate listener, a fierce advocate for justice, and an educator that would always center the needs of the young people in her classroom. Alice has been such a strong anchor for her cohort, for the TEP leadership team, and for her students.
“In one of the most memorable assignments from my fall Ethnic Studies course, Alice wrote a letter to her former middle school students about what she was learning here at HGSE, which included the following excerpt that highlights Alice’s commitment to exercising informed empathy and solidarity with her students and communities of color: ‘Peaceful violence is looking at the injustice and oppression around us, seeing the way racism benefits white supremacy while hurting communities of color, and saying, “that’s just the way things are.” While this lack of action we call “peace” reigns on the outside, the violence continues to hurt our minds, our bodies, and our hearts within. Remember when we watched videos of Black Lives Matter protests and they chanted, “No justice, no peace?” Without pursuing justice, any kind of peace we have is false and sustains the violence we and many others have already experienced.’
“As stated in one of her beautiful nominations, ‘Alice is able to challenge the thinking of a learning community precisely because of her commitment to first listening to others…. She is able to be open to new ideas because learning is at the center of her practice — not her own ego. It has been humbling to watch Alice artfully shape the thinking of a learning community. Her future communities of learning are beyond lucky to gain such a kind, humble, insightful, and open-hearted listener.’”
We spoke to Wang — who will be returning to the classroom after graduation to teach high school English in Washington, D.C. — about her time at HGSE and how the pandemic has changed the education landscape:
What brought you to the Ed School and what were your goals — and have those goals changed?
I came to the Ed School with a clear idea of what I wanted to learn so that I could grow in my pedagogy and improve in my practice. But once I arrived, I quickly realized that I needed to open myself up to learning and considering education through a totally different lens. The incredible teaching community at HGSE has really pushed me to expand my perspective and wrestle thoughtfully with the tensions that make our work both challenging and worthwhile.
"It’s been sobering to see how the pandemic has highlighted the inequities, injustices, and brokenness within our education systems. We need to contend with this reality while fighting for progress and refusing to let go of hope. And that’s a hard thing to do."
Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?
My English Methods class was one of the highlights of my time at HGSE. I have loved taking this course with such a caring, insightful, and passionate group of educators. Since Methods is a full year course, we improved our practice, wrestled with challenges, and celebrated victories together throughout the year. Methods has helped me realize that I often approach education-related issues with a structured (and sometimes restrictive) mindset. It has shifted my focus from trying to find the “perfect solution” to recognizing the complexities in our work and considering how to ask meaningful questions that will challenge my practice. [Lecturer] Katie Rieser, who taught the course, has been instrumental to my learning at HGSE. She has provided a clear example of what a warm, safe, yet rigorous learning community looks like. For many of us, she embodies the kind, thoughtful, and knowledgeable educator we each hope to become.
I am also incredibly grateful for all of the Ethnic Studies courses I’ve taken this year. These classes have taught me that I need to know my history and know myself if I want my students to bring their full selves into our classroom. I am especially grateful for [Senior Lecturer] Jo Kim’s class that focused on Asian American identities and issues. Being in a space of like-minded Asian American educators was so special, and it has really pushed me to consider how my Chinese American identity informs my work.
How has the pandemic shifted your views of education?
Education is hard. While this isn’t a surprise, it’s been sobering to see how the pandemic has highlighted the inequities, injustices, and brokenness within our education systems. We need to contend with this reality while fighting for progress and refusing to let go of hope. And that’s a hard thing to do.
What surprised you about your time at HGSE?
While I expected a community of educators to be warm and friendly, I’ve been really amazed by the depth of this community’s kindness and care for one another. It will definitely be bittersweet to leave a space where everyone is so passionate about learning and growing together.