Marcus Chen is the 2021 Union Middle School Teacher of the Year. Marcus has taught 7th Grade Science at Union Middle for 6 years. Marcus has a gift for building relationships with his students. Students of all kinds report that Marcus is their favorite teacher: students who are shy, boisterous, learning English, clinically depressed, honors students – even students that don’t like science say that he is their favorite teacher. Marcus cares deeply about his students. If the child has a syndrome, mental illness, or condition that he doesn’t understand, he researches it. He reaches out to parents, counselors, and our social worker for advice on how to support and help students. He has had tremendous success with engaging online students. He does a mini circle with them, letting the students interact with each other and making a personal connection with each student. He is phenomenal with our most complex students.
He is leading the way at Union in our goal to provide a more personalized, individualized system for learning. Marcus has created a self-paced course. He begins class with whole group instruction , then students work through a very engaging, interactive, self-paced curriculum on Canvas. While they are happily working, Marcus is able to pull small groups of ELL students or students on an IEP. The Accommodated Core self-contained students are included in his class. With support, they are successful too. For the students that are accelerated or advanced learners, Marcus has a structure for them to conduct research and scientific experiments on a topic of their choosing. This is a longer project that continues across multiple quarters.
Marcus also does many hands-on labs. This year he purchased specialized microscopes that plug into the Chromebook. They allow students to easily view samples and to take screenshots for their notes. He plans high-interest labs where students can discover scientific principles, like a CSI Crime Scene activity where students study blood spatter and DNA or dissecting cow eye balls to identify the parts of the eyes. He uses a variety of instructional supports, including cloze notes, explicit vocabulary instruction and graphic organizers.
Marcus is a strong teacher leader at Union. He has been our Science Department Chair, a grade-level team lead, and has served on the Building Leadership Team for 5 years. He cultivates a strong sense of mutual respect and collaboration. He is starting to work on cross-curricular projects. This year he collaborated with our Ceramics teacher. Students do some research on the properties of different types of rocks found in Utah and then they crush the rocks and make pottery.
Marcus has very high expectations for all students. He provides the scaffolds to help all students learn, while providing opportunities to go more deeply into the learning for students that need challenge.