Chiang leaves MVHS for Castilleja School

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Chiang leaves MVHS for Castilleja School

Yaamini Venkataraman

Social studies Christopher Chiang overlooks GovTeam's community garage sale on May 20, 2011. Chiang will be leaving MVHS to teach at Castilleja School in Palo Alto. At Castilleja, he will work with teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum. Photo by Kevin Tsukii.

Words spread like wildfire at a school of 2600. By lunch on June 8, the several students and faculty members learned that social studies teacher Christopher Chiang was leaving MVHS for the 2011-2012 school year for the Castilleja School. Chiang taught World History and was a knowledgable GovTeam adviser—Chiang was a GovTeam member at Arcadia High School, was an assistant coach as an alumnus, and started the program at MVHS.

As I sat down with Chiang for an interview, we found ourselves sporadically interrupted by several people, students and faculty alike, all telling Chiang the same thing—they could not believe he was leaving.

The decision

About two weeks ago, Castilleja contacted Chiang, asking him to join their staff. With the new headmaster Nanci Kauffman, Castilleja is “moving towards the 21st century”, which means integrating more technology into the curriculum. Chiang had been doing the same thing with GovTeam on a smaller scale—it is a completely paperless class and he encourages the use of technology from Powerpoints to videos.

Although the opportunity to integrate technology into the entire Castilleja curriculum appealed to Chiang, there were some drawbacks. He would works as a teacher on special assignment; in other words, he would teach teachers rather than students.

“I really enjoyed doing the project-based class with GovTeam and [MVHS students] are just awesome,” Chiang said. “Everyday I come and I can interact with students on a daily basis and at [Castilleja], I won’t have that.”

In the end, Chiang decided to accept the job offer in order to be closer to his family—the school is a block away from where is wife works and where his baby goes to daycare.

The new job

Though Chiang will be working primarily with teachers instead of students, he’s excited for the new chapter in his life. As the GovTeam adviser, he found that he was passionate about projects and technology, and seeks to make the project development process simpler.

“Developing projects and technology is a long process—it’s far easier to lecture than to do a project,” Chiang said. “Some of my job will be co-teaching, some of it will be co-planning, but a lot of it will be training teachers in technology, because that makes projects easier to do.”

For example, if Chiang had to create individual lesson plans for each of the six GovTeam units, he would spend a lot of time gathering content for each lesson. However, since all GovTeam members are required to have a laptop, students can do their own researching, giving Chiang the opportunity to coach instead of directly teach a lesson. At Castilleja, every student has a laptop, which would make the integration of technology into the classroom even easier.

“Students can go on the Internet and look at their own resources, so a teacher is less focused on knowledge than experience, coaching them, and movitivation,” Chiang said. “My goal is to help teachers with technology so that they can free themselves from the content, and focus more on coaching.”

Rebuilding GovTeam

The majority of the people that interrupted us during the interview had some affiliation with GovTeam—either the seniors of the 2010-2011 team or the juniors of the 2011-2012 team. A group of juniors stood by the door and although they hadn’t worked extensively with Chiang, they still had their own goodbyes to say.

“We just want to thank you for what you’ve done in the short time that we’ve known you,” 2011-2012 GovTeam member junior Srini Srikumar said.

Without an adviser, the GovTeam cabinet faces the task of managing a team of 32 students, from simple communication to making sure things get done. After their meeting on June 8 with Chiang, the cabinet had decided to take the team’s fate into their own hands.

Currently, they are exploring the possibility of having Amador Valley High School’s GovTeam adviser Keldon Clegg become the adviser for the team. Clegg would bring the necessary experience required to the position—Clegg’s AVHS team won the state competition in 2009 and 2011, and placed second and third in Nationals respectively. However, there are several other applicants vying for the position, and the new adviser may not come until the beginning of the school year. Chiang explored the possibility of having Clegg replace him, and the cabinet shares his enthusiasm at the prospect of having Clegg at MVHS.

“Over the summer [the cabinet] wants to talk to [Principal April Scott] about all of these changes,” GovTeam president-elect junior Iris Liu said. “We’re going to have to step it up and stay calm even though everything’s really confusing right now.”

Saying goodbye

June 9 marked Chiang’s last MVHS graduation. But on June 17 at Memorial Park, the 2011-2012 GovTeam as well as the three teams that preceded it will get another chance to say goodbye to Chiang at the GovTeam picnic organized by 2008-2009 GovTeam member and Class of 2009 alumna Devina Khanna.

Although Khanna notes that GovTeam will be different without Chiang, she realizes that GovTeam is just that—a team.

“One person doesn’t make a team, even though Chiang was a valuable asset,” Khanna said. “Although I’m sad GovTeam will no longer have [Chiang], I’m excited for him and I wish him all the best.”

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