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Princeton Valedictorian Jin Chow’s journey as a dedicated educator (Part II)
This blog post is the second part of our interview with Jin Yun Chow about her educational and life experience growing up in Hong Kong, graduating as the valedictorian at Princeton University, doing graduate school at Stanford University and co-founding the Stanford-based educational company Polygence.
What’s a typical day like for you as a grad student at Stanford?
Last year I was teaching Stanford’s French language sequence, so my daily routine was largely structured around teaching and lesson planning. I would get up around 7 am, have breakfast, get to the classroom by 8:15, then teach from 8:30-9:20. Then I normally do lesson planning for the next day immediately after teaching. After lunch, I normally have my own literature seminars to attend, and in the late afternoon I normally have Chinese Martial Arts training with the Stanford team. The evenings are usually spent working and having dinner with my boyfriend.
You have taught French at Stanford, tutored prison inmates in the Princeton area, mentored high school students from Hong Kong etc. - What makes you so passionate about education?
I didn’t fall in love with learning because of a book, or because of a historical figure, or even because of a family member; I fell in love with learning because of my teachers. Education is the single most powerful tool to equip and inspire young minds, and there is nothing more rewarding than offering someone else the transformative experience of seeing the world through the lens of intellectual curiosity and inquiry. The world has always and will always offer more than we could ever hope to explore, but it takes stellar educators to guide and equip young minds through the process. My experience teaching and mentoring in the New Jersey prison system has also made me an even firmer believer that quality education should be accessible to everyone. I am really looking forward to the day when Polygence has grown enough to be able to offer pro-bono services and scholarships to underserved communities.
Did you have mentors yourself in the past?
Academic and personal mentors have been the single most important motivator for my own intellectual trajectory. My eighth grade English teacher was the one who introduced me to the joys of literature and poetry, and I credit her with much of my decision to major in Comparative Literature and pursue a career in education. I still have fond memories of reading Wordsworth and Blake’s poems under her guidance and embarking on fun creative projects that engage with the literary texts that we have been studying. To this day, she is a dear friend and mentor to me and I mean it when I say I would not be where I am now without her.
In terms of my experience in higher education, I have also been lucky enough to have been introduced to many strong female figures in my academic experiences at both Princeton and Stanford. Building personal and intellectual relationships with these professors-turned-mentors have helped me tremendously with my interpersonal skills as well as given me a support network far away from home.
What has been your most rewarding mentorship experience?
Among all of my experiences during those memorable four years, I am most proud of the independent social justice project that I started and built from scratch with some of my close friends: Princeton Reentry Employment and Preparation (PREP). PREP was a prison education program I started that provided vocational and employment skills training for incarcerated individuals who were about to reenter the workforce in society. Building this project and teaching with my team in New Jersey’s prisons was one of the most challenging and humbling experiences I have ever had and it marked the beginning of my commitment to and passion for education and for giving back to society.