Born to Explore: From Wall Street to Innovative Educator Expert – Tracey Wong, USA

We always ask our educator heroes who inspired them to become an educator. For most, former teachers or parents top the list. For Tracey Wong, inspiration came from a different place: Her daughter Jaslee.

“I used to work long hours on Wall Street,” Wong tells us. “When I would come home, I read the same book to her every night ever since she was a baby. One day I was tired and I didn’t feel like reading. I was just lying on the bed feeling totally drained. She was four years old at the time and she started reading the book to me. It wasn’t an easy book. It was probably an H-level book with several complex sentences on each page. That amazed me since I never taught her to read or did anything formally. So I thought if I could get her to read, just imagine what I could do if I was a teacher.”

And what she has done is indeed incredible. A Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Wong has 14 years teaching experience in the New York City Department of Education public schools as a school library media specialist, reading recovery teacher, leveled literacy intervention specialist and elementary teacher. She also has over five years teaching experience at the college level.

Wong is best known for her ability to obtain resources – big and small.

“I have been able to successfully bring in approximately a million dollars in technology equipment, resources and summer school programming to build up the school library media center and make it a true center of the school,” says Wong. “I am proud of being a catalyst of change. Education is filled with several defining moments. As a teacher, you realize you have the ability to bring positive change to another human being’s life, and that in itself is incredible.”

You can soon see Wong and her students starring in “Born to Explore” – a program in which ABC and Microsoft are teaming up to bring the world directly to classrooms with Skype. Here’s more information on how you can watch.

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Tracey Wong!

What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?

It is difficult to pick my proudest moment in my teaching career. In the last four years as a school librarian, many amazing events have happened. I helped a student advocate for healthy lifestyles and workshops in an interdisciplinary unit. He won a trip to go elevator pitch Warren Buffett. The student eventually won funds to implement his idea at school. It was exciting to see an idea conceptualized and taken through to fruition.

This greatly impacted the community because a partnership was formed with parents to learn how to cook and eat healthy. Many inner-city scholars participated in gardening and harvesting, something they never did before. Overall, it brought change for the better to many inner city families’ lifestyles and food choices.

I made some students “cafeteria rangers” who went through lunch trash to find composting ingredients. This group won the NYC Golden Apple Award and the Bette Midler New York Rose Project Award. Also, scholars were invited to the White House to visit Michelle Obama’s garden since we were facilitating change with our NYC concrete school garden and fighting childhood obesity.

In addition, I worked with several Dominican and Albanian students that won the NYC Jewish heritage writing contests. This was special since they were able to parallel their immigrant experiences to the Jewish immigrants’ experiences. These scholars won $500, $300, and $100 dollar prizes and got to meet the Mayor of New York City. One winner said to me, “Ms. Wong, $300 is a lot of money for a little girl!”  I replied, “$300 is a lot of money to a big girl like me!”

Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?

I feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom because if it is used the right way, it can be a game changer. Last spring, I led P.S. 375 Mosaic Preparatory Academy in Harlem in a Mystery Skype lesson with a paleontologist.

The scholars asked yes and no questions to determine where he was located. They used analysis and critical thinking skills. They had to communicate, collaborate, research and understand geography. The children thought they were playing a game when in actuality they were learning and navigating online resources. This experience was wonderful.

ABC’s Born to Explore filmed this. Please tune in to see the light in the eyes of NYC school children as they learn about dinosaurs and how these ancient creatures actually inhabited the land where their school now is. Surprisingly, we also had a future paleontologist in our school as the show will unveil.

Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?

Having worked in the NYC DOE school system for over 14 years, I would say the biggest problem I have faced as an educator is obtaining technology for student use in conjunction with having administration understand how it should be used.

I have worked in three different NYC DOE schools and each time I started at a different school, there were not adequate resources for students and it required me aggressively pursuing equipment in order to be able to implement projects. Many times, administrators didn’t understand the larger picture of what I was trying to do with creating learning opportunities and fostering student ownership and creation of digital projects.

I strongly believe in order to ensure a quality education, administrators need to be better educated. Teachers want to do so many things, but their hands are tied because of politics or because they don’t have the authority.
In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future?

I think now is the most exciting time for students in education. They are able to take virtual reality field trips, Skype with experts, create digital publications that reach family members and friends across the world. I think with all these real-time tools we have available, children will change art, science, culture and life as we now know it. They can collaborate and create in sync with others. We are inspiring the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Nick Woodman, Kevin Systrom, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Tracey Wong

School Library Media Specialist

Daniel Webster Magnet School

New Rochelle, New York, USA

@traceycarayol

  • Blog URL: mswongswonders.wordpress.com
  • Birthplace: Monterey, California
  • Educational background: MS in Elementary Ed, MST in Reading, MS in School Library Information Technology
  • Website I check every day: Bing for current news, photos and social events; Twitter
  • Favorite childhood memory: I remember Sundays were always special days in my house. My father used to take us to the library and we were allowed to check out books. That was a really big deal. We grew up seeing the library as a wonderful place where we could hear stories, read and borrow books all for free. My father, who was born in Shanghai, became a U.S. citizen in New York and later graduated from West Point Military Academy – he always emphasized how great America is. Only in American did you have a wealth of free information all at your fingertips. My mother also instilled in us the importance of education. Growing up, she would tell us to get as many degrees as we could because no matter what happened in life, no matter what anyone tried to do to us, no one could touch our knowledge or take away our education. She would say as long as we were educated, we could always pick ourselves back up in life.
  • Favorite book: The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne
  • Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: OneNote – I love being organized and being able to record voice and screenshots on the go.
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? My mother always said, “You only have one chance at a first impression.” She always relayed how important it was to take pride in my work or whatever I did. She would always tell me that if I was going to do something, I should take the time and do it right the first time. That has always stayed with me.

 

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