Chris Chien is a Teacher Education Program candidate for the 2022-23 school year. He received his B.A. in Geography from UC Santa Barbara in 2017 and began a career in cartography upon graduation. After four years in the mapping industry, Chien shifted career directions to pursue his childhood ambitions of becoming a teacher. Prior to entering the program, he volunteered locally at Cleveland Elementary as a literacy tutor and at Paragon Academy as an assistant kids’ wrestling coach.
GGSE: What drew you to the GGSE and what are you specifically looking forward to during your time here?
Chien: I’ve lived in Santa Barbara for some time now, and my love for this city has grown deeper the more I’ve involved myself in the community. I specifically applied to this program as a way for me to continue to deepen that love. I have a lot I want to give to this city, and I want to be able to do that with the people I’ve met along the way and with the people I will meet in the future. I look forward to the many ways this program will open my heart further. I am eager to hear the stories of the many students I come across, and I am eager to learn how I can become a better educator. I know for myself that it’s easy to be comfortable in my worldview and think I know the right way to do things. Time and time again I’ve been humbled by how much I don’t know. I am excited to show up, learn, and bring a better version of myself each and every day.
GGSE: Why do you want to become a teacher and what credentials are you working toward?
Chien: I’m working toward a multiple subject teaching credential. I want to be an elementary school teacher because I think it’s the punk rock thing to do. Growing up, I struggled to see myself in my community. I often felt boxed in by other people’s expectations of me because of how I looked. It’s difficult to feel comfortable in your own skin when who you are has been decided by those around you, before you could have any say in the matter. I often wonder how different things would be if I had had role models who looked like me or could relate to my experiences.
Teachers are the adults with whom children spend the most time, outside of their own families. In a California that is becoming increasingly more diverse, the diversity of the teaching workforce has lagged far behind, especially in elementary education. Children deserve to see the breadth of humanity and all it has to offer. They deserve to see that men can be tender. They deserve to see that people of color are beautiful and undefinable, despite whatever boxes the world may impose. I’m here because I want to help make that possible.
GGSE: What was your undergraduate experience like and who/what inspired you to pursue higher education?
Chien: I went [to UCSB] for my undergraduate degree and found it to be an incredibly formative experience. I studied geography, which, amongst other things, cultivated my love for mapmaking. I think fondly of the many quiet nights I spent in Ellison Hall honing my skills for what would eventually become my career for the first few years after graduation. During this time, I also had the opportunity to intern and study abroad in Taipei. This experience in particular had an indelible impact on my life as it brought me closer to my cultural roots. For the first time in my life, I felt connected to my personal history. More than that, I could finally speak from my mouth the language so intimately woven into my family’s identity. I was inspired to pursue higher education because I wanted to expand and challenge the ways I saw the world. Geography was a fitting major for this because it is the study of how various systems—physical, cultural, or informational—intersect and operate at different scales. I loved its interdisciplinary and holistic approach to thinking and problem-solving. I feel fortunate to have gotten so much out of my undergraduate experience, and any mention of these experiences is incomplete without acknowledging my parents. My father worked tirelessly in Taiwan to make this all possible for me, and my mother raised me by herself in California to help me see it through. They will forever be my inspiration.
GGSE: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What are you interested in outside of teaching?
Chien: I’m from San Diego and I take a lot of pride in that. I owe a lot of who I am to our excellent school districts, our inspiring natural environment, and, my personal favorite, our vibrant punk and metal scene. I especially identify with the DIY ethos of punk rock. Sometimes you don’t like what you see in the world. So you find your people and see what’s possible when you do it yourself. In my free time, I enjoy kickboxing, wrestling, and jiu jitsu.