The Inside Scoop with Jason Chang

3 mins read

“I’ve always enjoyed science. I liked the hands-on aspect of science with labs and experiments as a kid. I remember in eighth grade I would build model rockets and mousetrap cars,” said Chemistry teacher Jason Chang. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Chang immigrated to the United States as a child and grew up in San Diego. His interest in chemistry began in his high school Honors Chemistry class. “Chemistry is unique because you can’t see a lot of it; you have to really think about it, and I’ve always been the type of person who can visualize in my head.”

After graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, Chang began interning at a pharmaceutical company. “There wasn’t much to do in chemical engineering at the time because I wasn’t interested in oil, which was a big portion of the field, so I was also applying to things outside my major.” In addition to chemical engineering, Chang was also involved with education, tutoring music, and other topics in high school and college.

Chang’s first big step into teaching was when he went abroad to teach high school English and science in Japan for two years after graduating as part of the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, “I found that it was interesting and fun to be in other countries. So I went to Japan, and I loved it. I had never been to Asia at that point, and being surrounded by Asian culture was nice. With the experience I had teaching there, I came back and thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll continue teaching.’”

Chang earned his master’s in education at Stanford and found an opening at M-A while searching for jobs. He said, “I was interviewed, and it seemed like a school where the staff cared about the students. When doing my own research about M-A, I found out that there was a lot of diversity here, and that’s something that I have always valued. I grew up with a low socioeconomic background, and M-A has both extremes [of class status], so I wanted to be a teacher who could help try to bridge the two.” 

Chang’s first year at M-A began during the COVID lockdown when teaching was over Zoom. He recalled the unique experience, saying, “Out of all the teachers, I probably was less affected by the pandemic. I’m tech-savvy, and additionally, as a new teacher, it wasn’t actually that bad to start during the pandemic. While it was a shame that I couldn’t interact with the students much, I could really focus on developing my curriculum that year, so by the following year, I had a solid curriculum.” 

Chang has been a strong advocate for detracking at M-A and was supportive of the removal of AS Chemistry in the 2021-22 school year. This year, he was photographed by the M-A Chronicle at a board meeting on detracked classes, holding a sign that said, “Building our community together is worth it!” Elaborating on his values, he said, “Everyone can learn science. Nowadays, there’s an elitist view on science when that’s not the case. Science can be taught in a way where everyone can benefit. I value group interactions, and my philosophy is that students can all work together. Diverse views are what prop everyone up. You’ll be surprised at how much just talking to different people makes you think about science in a different way.”

In his short time at M-A, Chang has become a popular figure on campus because of his humor and down-to-earth personality. Senior Lydia Honerkamp said, “His class structure allows students to make mistakes and learn from them, and his humor helps students feel more engaged and comfortable with asking questions.” Sophomore Karina Gadre said, “I like that the class is lab focused. I really enjoy how he accommodates lessons to their passions like a lab based around favorite foods.” Chang noted, “I enjoy when students feel comfortable in my class and have fun. I particularly like the end-of-year capstone project because I can tell that almost every one of my students gets excited about building things, and it’s nice to see. I think my classes have shown that everyone can do science.” 

“High schoolers are funny,” Chang added. “Seeing the funny things that my students do brings me joy every day.”

Leehan is a senior and this is her first year in journalism. She finds interest in fashion, the arts, and M-A’s diverse student life.

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