Faculty Profile: Lily Chen
Posted 11/06/2015 08:17AM
Lily Chen began teaching at Forman School in 2010, but her journey in the creative fields started long before then. Now the Chair of the Thinking and Writing Department at Forman, Chen has 20 years of experience in private schools. She also has a culturally diverse background, having been born in Taiwan, educated by primarily British teachers, and ultimately marrying a Jewish American.
Referring to herself as “an unyielding advocate for diversity in all its forms of manifestation,” Chen believes in planting the “seeds for embracing cultural legacies,” both in her sons, Kramer and Zachary, and in her students. Her motto in teaching comes from an unlikely place: it’s from Whitney Houston’s song, “Greatest Love of All,” which reads: “I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride.” Chen remembers this daily and repeats the idea to her students. “Life is the greatest teacher and Love is the virtual subject that all teachers teach,” she says eloquently.
Clearly, the personal and professional aspects of Chen’s life interweave fluidly, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I have directed, acted in, and costumed numerous theatrical productions in my career in private schools. In fact, my civil wedding took place on the second stage of the National Taiwan Theater, where I simply announced to the audience after my closing performance as the female lead, ‘The lighting designer [former Forman faculty member Robert Kwalick] and I would like to get married; we invite anyone who wishes to stay to join our celebration!’” she explains enthusiastically.
Before transitioning to Thinking and Writing this year, Chen taught English at Forman for five years, and she found many ways to incorporate her various hands-on artistic interests in the classroom. “In my years of teaching English, students were given opportunities to interpret literature by capturing elements of fiction through different artistic venues, such as movie trailers, stage performances, puppet shows, 3D sculptures, drawings, and summary slides,” she says. When it comes to teaching strategies such as thought organization and paragraph structure, Chen incorporates tactile devices to encourage student interaction and understanding. “I make laminated cards of important concepts and strategies for students to manipulate, with the goal to arrive at (instead of being fed) an effective formula for written information processing and delivery. Students also work with magnetic individual sentences to collaborate on restoring the internal logic of a writing sample.”
Before Forman, Chen earned her B.A. from Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan and then went on to focus on dramatic literature, literary criticism, and playwriting in her graduate studies at Northern Illinois University. Beyond her current role at Forman, she is also a certified ESL teacher, speaks three languages, and has international teaching experience. Although Chen was originally introduced to Forman through a mutual friend of Head of School Adam Man, she says, “My decision to merge and stay with the community is neither coincidence nor coercion. Every day, I find joy in exploring the possibility of making a visible difference in the lives of those creative young minds.”