Prisma is a locally-rooted, globally connected co-learning network for kids in grades 4-8. Although we’re not a school or a traditional education company, the Prisma team is full of educators with rich, diverse experience developing curriculum, training teachers, and leading schools. In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma.
Next up is Tiffany Chan, one of the Founding Learning Coaches for our Los Angeles cohort.
Tell us a little bit about your background in education.
I took an education class my last semester in college to fulfill a graduation requirement and it ended up being the best course I took in all of my four years! I finally found what I had been searching for— people who shared my same values. Through that course, I ended up volunteering at a high school in East Oakland, California, where a veteran teacher mentored me and encouraged me to pursue my teaching credential. I’ve had so many official and unofficial roles working in schools and educational programs: from teaching art and cooking classes in an after school program, to special education in kindergarten and middle school, to working as a literacy specialist, coaching teachers, and writing virtual learning curriculum. I’ve worked with learners with special needs and English language learners for my entire career, and this has shaped the lens through which I view everything. It is critical to me that I plan for and facilitate learning experiences that are inclusive and equitable from the get-go.
As a learner myself, perhaps some of my most foundational learning (or rather, unlearning) has been in arts integration. Several years ago, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in an Integrated Learning Specialist Program, partnering with teaching artists to deconstruct and re-design traditional school curriculum. Traditional teaching never allowed me the full space to be creative as a facilitator, and it felt like I always had to quiet my true self. I’m here at Prisma because I really do believe in this model. I think I would have flourished as a Prisma learner. Well, I’m still a learner—so I’m a Prisma learner too!
You’ve traveled and worked all over the world, most recently in Mexico. What was that like? What do you learn from traveling?
I grew up as a “third culture kid” (Google it!) in Hong Kong and Singapore, both cultural melting pots. Ever since I started my educator career, I’ve spent almost every summer backpacking in a different country. Not only does traveling just stir my soul, but I think I’ve learned my most important lessons by observing, exploring, being challenged, being afraid and having my worldview constantly broadened with the knowledge I gather and the people I learn from. There are so many “norms” that are actually drastically different from culture to culture. I lived in Mexico for the past three years and have only scratched the surface of the profound richness the country has to offer. One thing I really appreciate is that people in Mexico know and recognize indigenous people’s history as their own. Every culture brings its positives and negatives; I certainly had frustrations in Mexico, however I think there are so many learning opportunities in discomfort.
You’re a very talented artist, with a background in painting and sculpture. How do you hope to bring that into your work as a Prisma learning coach?
Art is all about asking questions. Artists are constantly inquiring, investigating, looking at things from different perspectives, taking risks and trying and failing and trying again. I want all of that for the learners I work with! Everyone has something, whether they’ve discovered it or not, that with practice, allows them to enter a flow-state when producing. I want to help all my learners find this for themselves.
What was middle school like for you?
So incredibly awkward! I was very privileged to be able to go to middle school in Singapore, and while it was really cool to go to school with kids from all over the world, middle school is middle school, no matter where you are. I was so, so shy and coming out of a deep tomboy phase. While I wanted to be “popular,” I just didn’t connect with those kids. I was really into drama (I was Juliet in Romeo and Juliet!), tap dancing, playing the saxophone in band, playing basketball and volleyball and reading. But overall, my friendships were the most important thing to me at that time.
Looking forward to our official launch in September, what are you most looking forward to?
September 8, 2020, obviously! There is nothing like the first day of learning jitters. I absolutely cannot wait to finally see everyone’s smiling faces. We’ve spent so much time carefully planning for launch and I’m incredibly impressed by all of the learner applications we’ve been receiving. See you at 10 AM on September 8—it’s going to be magical!
What do you love to learn about? Or, what’s something new you learned recently?
I recently took a character strengths assessment and simultaneously laughed and rolled my eyes at the results. According to the assessment, my top strength is Curiosity, which is undeniably true. I am constantly asking questions, observing, analyzing and consuming information. I love to read the news and listen to podcasts in English and Spanish and compare different cultural perspectives. I love to learn about people: what makes them tick, and why they see the world the way they do. I also have a long mental bucket list of different creative skills I still want to learn: carpentry, building neon light art, glassblowing and game design are at the top. I already tried blacksmithing (I almost cried out of frustration) and printmaking. More recently, I have been exploring and teaching myself digital painting on my iPad and more advanced video editing.