At the end of a busy school day, teacher Ho-Zhen Chen smiles as he reflects on the day with his 9th grade Algebra 1 students. “Ninth graders can be ferocious,” said Ho-Zhen, grinning. “So much is going on with them at this time in their lives. I love every minute of it.”
Ho-Zhen first came to teaching after time in graduate school, beginning work in a para/school support position at the Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley while investigating options for obtaining his teaching credentials. He has been at Holyoke High School for 2 ½ years since first coming to the school as a student teacher, and is now a member of the 9th grade teaching team.
Ho-Zhen chose to enroll in the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) Educator Licensure program. “CES was just the most straightforward for students – and the CES Licensure support team – I can’t thank them enough, they get things done for their students.”
“I come from a family of teachers, and teaching is a profession of experience.” He found his student teaching position with the assistance of the CES program. It was the start of his work at Holyoke High School.. Student teaching was his introduction to the day to day work of teaching. “The only thing you have going for you is the passion for the kids, wanting them to succeed. I was always always reflecting on how I could do better.”
Ho-Zhen felt prepared for his classroom work after taking courses at CES, and particularly appreciated the subject matter coursework. “In these, everyone in the class already has a full understanding of the fundamentals. So it connects you with like minded individuals in the topic, builds up your connections, and your confidence.”
Ho-Zhen sees his role as a teacher as one of understanding more than just the student in the classroom. Most days after school he visits clubs that his students participate in, or watches sports to get a bigger picture view of those 9th graders he is teaching. “Sometimes I see these kids more than their parents do because of how long they are at school.”
How does he reflect when he’s had a bad day? His teaching team is his first support. “I love my team!” Sometimes he connects with his family. And then there are times when “I will call students’ parents. Let them know I just want to check in, and talk about the student. Ask how they think the student is doing, are there interests the student has that I may not know about. Sometimes I get recipes from grandmothers – real recipes, with TWO sticks of butter, those are the best!” It helps to get the family’s feedback about how the student is doing during these calls, says Ho-Zhen because it also reflects on what he is doing well, and what he might improve.
Ho-Zhen prepared a bucket list booklet to give to his students, filled with things to do over the course of their time at Holyoke High School. Assorted random things that students should do before they leave – a picture with the principal, flying a kite on a sports field, attending specific school events, attending Holyoke St Patrick’s Day parade – the booklet makes it easier for students to have good memories.
Ho-Zhen found the licensing process easier as well, because of the CES team’s support. “If you look at the CES program, and compare it to all the other programs, review all the paperwork…it was such a smooth process with CES.” Ho-Zhen hears others talking about the process to achieve their licenses, and problems they encountered,and says that the CES team made the paperwork easy for him. “I never had to be concerned about these things. CES really helped every step of the way.”