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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Brooklyn Middle School Teacher is a Ray of ‘Sun’ Shine for her Pupils

May 31, 2015 | Lisa Colangelo, The Daily News

It is impossible for Stephanie Sun to contain her enthusiasm for teaching.

She gushes about her fifth grade students at Achievement First Brownsville Middle School in Brooklyn, who delve into such complex topics as ancient Polynesian navigation and climate change in her English class. “When kids are engaged and happy and feel confident and feel support — they can accomplish any task you put in front of them,” said Sun.

Colleagues say the 26-year-old teacher is well-suited for her name. She’s known as “Miss Sunny” and “Miss Sunshine” around the building.

For providing an uplifting and rigorous classroom experience, Sun has been nominated for a Daily News Hometown Hero in Education award. Parents, students and educators have been nominating the extraordinary people who go above and beyond in their jobs at schools in the five boroughs. A panel of judges will review the nominees and select the winners in August. They will be celebrated at a breakfast ceremony on Oct 1.

Sun started her teaching career early. As a child, she would gather her stuffed animals into a class at her suburban New Jersey home and break out the mini blackboard. “I would teach for hours,” she said.

After graduating from New York University, Sun took several jobs and internships where she worked with homeless teens and immigrant youngsters. She joined Teach For America and took on a challenging post in New Haven, Conn., teaching English to middle schoolers. “It was a turnaround school,” she said. “All the students had been suspended or expelled from other schools. We gave them another chance.”

She served as teacher, mother and social worker to her students but wanted to strengthen her teaching skills. Sun came to Achievement First, a charter school, two years ago. “This is the place I want to be,” she said. “I have mentors I learn from every day.”

She recently beat out hundreds of other teachers from around the country to win the 2015 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice. Only four teachers in the nation received the award, which recognizes teachers working in high-poverty public schools.

Keith Brooks, principal of Achievement First Brownsville, said Sun reminds him of the teachers who challenged and inspired him over the years. “Stephanie Sun is that type of teacher,” he said. “When our kids become leaders in our communities, they'll look back and say the same thing about Ms. Sun.”

Sun said her passion for teaching never wanes — even when she is tired. “I just know if I’m around kids, I’ll always have the energy to keep going,” she said.

I just know if I’m around kids, I’ll always have the energy to keep going.

– Stephanie Sun