Jennifer Chauhan says her "aha moment" -- that split second when all the pieces of her professional puzzle began to come into place -- arrived a year ago when a former student, who is now a first grade teacher, told Chauhan that she had inspired her to become an educator.
Chauhan, of Little Silver, learned that not only did this former student attend her alma mater -- Columbia's Teachers College -- but that that student was now teaching at Point Road School, where Chauhan's son is in the first grade. Added to that, material from a week-long workshop at Columbia that the former student attended this summer will be incorporated into the first-grade curriuculum.
"My son is reaping the benefits of that," said Chauhan recently, sitting at the sleek conference table of her Fair Haven studio. "I indirectly affected my own child."
Chauhan launched JC Writing Studio, located at 623 River Rd., in June which lets her blend her commitment to teaching with her passion for the written word.
"I am all about giving students their voice," she says of the various workshops the studio offers to help young writers improve their skills or tap into their creative pool and explore. "It's about pulling out their voice and developing their ideas."
As the managing editor of Teacher Magazine shortly after college, Chauhan traveled around the country and learned about different teaching methods, which prompted her to switch gears and go back to school to become an educator. She worked for a few years with underserved students across New York City until she found her way to Rumson-Fair Haven High School as a creative writing teacher (okay, she taught AP English, too).
She left that position after seven years to stay at home with her three children, but the end of her marriage a few years ago presented the chance to move once again in a new direction.
"The opportunity presented itself," she says, "and I took advantage of it."
Now, surrounded by inspirational wall art and a book shelf stocked with writing resources, Chauhan, who also blogs on Patch and is at work on a young adult novel, can get back to the business of giving young writers a voice.
Her college essay writing workshops help move some of the stress of the application process away from the kitchen table, where parents are charged with prying ideas and material out of their teens, and into Chauhan's studio. There are two to chose from that help jumpstart the writing process for students and put Chauhan, and not mom and dad, in the editor's seat. According to the JC Writing Studio Web site:
College Essay Writing Workshop 101
Sunday, September 30 (4 p.m. — 6 p.m.)
Designed for students who are not sure where to begin or what to write about, this two-hour brainstorming workshop helps you come up with a topic that best reflects who you are or what you believe in.
College Essay Writing Workshop 102
Session 1: Tuesdays, October 2, 9, 16 (6:30 p.m. — 8:30 p.m.)
Session 2: Wednesdays, October 3, 10, 17 (6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.)
Now that you’ve picked a topic, it’s time to start writing. During three two-hour sessions, you will write your essay under our guidance.
JC Writing Studio also offers Creative Writing Workshops for both teens who live to write and those who think they're terrible at writing.
"We try to break the labels of 'I'm not a good writer,'" Chauhan says, explaining that she is a firm believer in multiple intelligences and that sometimes, removing the student from having to write something narrowly focused for school and just write for themselves can be a revelation. "Sometimes the kids who think they're bad writers say, 'Wait a minute, I'm not a bad writer.'"
Chauhan says she has a few other projects up her sleeve, like creating a program to give back to the community by providing free college essay workshops to those who wouldn't be able to afford that type of service. She'd also like to bring creative writing to local schools and create a community of writers to help connect that generally solitary segment of the population. She's also working on a book on the positive effects of divorce.
"It's about pursuing your passions," Chauhan says of it all. "Because then it's not work."