Bridging the Gap for Students of Color in STEM: Ms. Crystal Clarke

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             Crystal Clarke has always been interested in education for as long as she can remember. Her countless “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” projects (that we all do in Kindergarten or early grades at some point) all featured growing up to be a math teacher. Originally from Jersey City, New Jersey, Ms. Clarke found herself at William Paterson University majoring in Mathematics. After college she decided to take a job with AmeriCorps with the Tutor Corps Urban Education Fellowship in Newark, New Jersey, less than an hour away from her hometown. After focusing on math for so long in college, she now had the chance to apply that math knowledge to work in education. Ms. Clarke explains that she took the job because “[she] truly believed [she] could make an impact on students lives. [She] wanted to serve as a tutor so I could be involved with student development of learning topics and concepts.”

             Combining her love of math and her love for education, Ms. Clarke’s long term plans are to become a school administrator. She believes that her dream of making a difference in education will be fulfilled once she is a principal. However, she knows that the best principals are the ones that have experience, so she joined the Great Oaks Legacy Charter High School Tutor Corps.  

             As a tutor, Ms. Clarke has worked closely with students while also working in Geometry class as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and In-Class Support. Every tutor receives a secondary role in addition to tutoring to support a staff member in their day to day work as a TA or an Administrative Assistant. As a TA, tutors supplement teacher grading, data tracking, and support with long term projects. As in-class support, tutors assist with students who may need additional help in the classroom, while the teacher is leading the class. The ability to work in a 5:1 ratio with students during tutorial and also a 25:1 class setting during in-class support, has allowed Ms. Clarke to develop her ability to teach and work in both small and large group settings. She explains “My tutoring role has allowed me to closely work with students and identify their areas of growth. I am able to develop supplements based off of individual student needs.”

             As a Teaching Assistant, Ms. Clarke has also been able to get in class experience such as teaching lessons, grading homework, and developing targeted help for students struggling with Geometry. Next year Ms. Clarke will be returning to Great Oaks Legacy Charter High School to fulfill her next step on her journey as a full time Mathematics teacher. “Tutoring has definitely prepared me with scenarios that may occur as an educator. I have been able to see the areas that I believe need improvement and the areas that are currently effective”, she said.

             Not only hoping to be a principal, Ms. Clarke hopes to help students realize that “education can make a difference in their lives.” This belief was taught to her at a young age as she explained that “growing up in a Guyanese household, my parents have always stressed the importance of education and that is the reason why I am so dedicated to [my] students.”

             Finally, Ms. Clarke hopes her efforts will inspire more students of color into the STEM fields. “I would like to fix the lack of students of color who are entering Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics fields. I would like to conduct research on the funding available for students that come from marginalized communities and determine how much of an impact the education gap is contributing to underrepresentation of people of color in STEM.” Her job as an educator and role model here are just one way she hopes to serve as a model to her students, “I want students to look at me and think because Ms. Clarke did it, so can I.”

 

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