Susan B. English has a New Math and Science Guy

| October 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

by Jenny Chissus

He used to go by “coach” in his last teaching job, and he said that it may morph back into that as the year goes by, but for now, our new teacher goes by the official title “Mr. Derks”.

Justin Derks is our newest teacher at Susan B. English school, instructing both math and science to our middle school and high school students.

Mr. Derks is from Michigan, raised in a small itty bitty town right on Lake Michigan, about 80 miles across the lake from Milwaukee.  He exclaimed that it is a beautiful place, where he went to a small high school, North Muskegon High, and studied at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He worked in the Connections program in Homer last year before accepting this job in Seldovia!

So, this is his first classroom experience since student teaching!  When I spoke with him, I asked his opinion about how it was going so far, and his response was:  “I’m stoked!  You know, you have this vision of what a perfect scenario, environment and classroom would look like – and this is it for me!  Grand Rapids had a very progressive/think outside the box philosophy about education in math and science, and how to integrate education into the classroom.   I am excited that I am one of the few people to have been given the opportunity to really pursue the way I see education moving.  Because of the small numbers, I’m thrilled to be able to work with the way kids learn in a creative way.   This is a small, mastery environment, where you can pursue some serious math and science investigation.   If I could have drawn up the perfect environment to teach in when I left the University, this would have been it!  Small class sizes, great kids, a wealth of resources in a beautiful location!  It boggles my mind when I come to work every day.  I am so fortunate that I get to work here, and do what I love to do everyday!  It is an unbelievable thing!  When you see an inner-city educational system, where kids don’t have money for books and one microscope, to having 15 microscopes and a classroom full of kids who want to learn – it is an awesome, awesome thing!  I feel so totally blessed!”

He knew after the year at Connections that he missed the kids, and missed being in the classroom.  He didn’t know where it would lead him, but when this job in Seldovia became available – it was a perfect match.  He couldn’t wait to be at a white board again!

When I asked Mr. Derks what he hoped to achieve this first year, he stated that his primary goal is to make sure that the kids are happy, the classroom is a positive environment, and that the students look forward to coming to class.  “If our relationships are good, the rest will take care of itself!  Of course professionally, I have a directive of where I want to take the classes for both math and science, but to create a great learning environment,  I believe it starts with the relationship aspects, we need a good foundation to move forward.”  

Mr. Derks is coaching wrestling this year, and he is also leading the student council and working on a program called “Caring for the Kenai” with his science students.   One of his big ideas he is pursuing with his science class is very exciting!  He is working on a project where students do their own research and publish their own paper in an official science journal!  As Mr. Derks stated with enthusiasm: “Scientific journals are often published at the masters and collegiate level, but I’ve never seen them at the high school level, and I would like to see Susan B. English start something like that!  Who knows, maybe it will take off state-wide, maybe even nationally!”  It is one of his big dreams, and he sees that coming to fruition in his 5 year plan.  This year, he is planning to have a science fair in the spring.

When Mr. Derks isn’t teaching or coaching, he loves to hike, fish and hunt – but he realizes his outdoor life is on hold for now as he gets things going at the school.  As a new teacher, he is totally committed to spending a good part of his spare time focused on preparing for class and creating a great environment for his students.

Bottom line for Mr. Derks is that he LOVES Seldovia, and is totally thrilled to be teaching at Susan B. English!  I can say too, that we have been receiving very great feedback (from our own two kids who are his students) as well as other SBE students and teachers.  Mr. Derks is a great addition to the Susan B. English staff!

Welcome Mr. Derks!

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Category: Editor's Favorites, Education, Sports

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