A Q&A With a Golden Apple Finalist from Hancock College Prep High School
SCHOOLS | March 16, 2022
A Q&A With a Golden Apple Finalist from Hancock College Prep High School

Ms. Cristen Chapman is in her 25th year of teaching, a career she pursued because she believed the world could be a better place and had lost faith that adults could create that future on their own. Instead, she felt that it was essential to engage youth and inspire them to become the next generation of change-makers. With her sociology, AP U.S. History, and AP U.S. Government students at Hancock High School, she focuses on connecting her students with issues that are meaningful to them so they are prepared to make a positive impact in their communities. Get to know her more below.

What are you known for at Hancock High School?
I’ve developed a reputation for my classes being challenging and pushing people to think. With my sociology class, we do units on culture and socialization and structural inequality, but the final unit is my favorite. Students get to select a topic that interests them and either do research or a TED Talk. Some of the most exciting days in my classroom are when students are sharing what they’ve learned with all of us. 

What do you hope students take away from and remember about your classes?
As long as my former students are trying to improve the community and the world, that makes me happy. One of my former students is a school counselor, so I keep in touch with her and know that she’s affecting the lives of other people in a positive way. Another one of my former students is now a social studies teacher. She was amazing in my class, and now it’s great to know that she’s positively influencing a new generation of students. 

What was your reaction when you learned you were a Golden Apple Finalist?
I was very surprised. I did know that one of my colleagues had nominated me, but it became something that I wasn’t necessarily thinking about on a daily basis. Finding out, however, did lead to a very special moment with one of my students. I found out just as they were leaving class, and I told him and he gave me a fist bump. 

What advice would you give to an educator who is just starting out?
When I wanted to become a teacher, I thought that I would just be able to go into a room and talk about things that I care about, and that all my students would then care about them too. But it’s not that easy. Especially now, we’re in competition with cell phones and other distractions. So, I would say to focus on two things: being excited about the subject matter that you are teaching and not being afraid to reach out to your colleagues for help. Collaborating with other educators within professional learning communities has been so important to my own growth. 

What keeps you coming back to your role as an educator year after year?
Teaching has many challenges, but hearing from current and former students about the impact of my classes on their views and lives gives me energy each day. I have a wall in my classroom dedicated to messages from my students that remind me of this impact as well. 

In addition to inspiring students in her classes, Ms. Chapman also leads many extracurricular opportunities at Hancock, sponsoring everything from slam poetry to hip hop club.