Never stop learning

The Concord Consortium’s Teacher Ambassador program commemorates our 25th anniversary by recognizing 25 outstanding teachers who have included our digital inquiry resources into their STEM classrooms. We congratulate them on their innovation and creativity.

Emerlyn Gatchalian, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Hercules, CA

As a child, Emerlyn Gatchalian was always the teacher: “I’d always get the role of teacher whenever I had playtime with my friends.”

She began her formal teaching career in the Philippines, where a passionate chemistry teacher, who sometimes wore a magician hat and waved a fairy wand, inspired her love for teaching science. “She made learning so exciting and fun,” Emerlyn says. In 2005, after a decade teaching in the Philippines, Emerlyn came to the U.S., but, “Teaching here was so different.” Coming from a more disciplined classroom tradition, she wasn’t used to class management issues. So she sought additional training and learned to implement new classroom routines and policies.

She now teaches 9-12th grade biology, chemistry, and AP chemistry, and uses Concord Consortium learning resources for teaching about enzymes, osmosis, photosynthesis and cellular respiration, and plant adaptation. Her students come from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds, and this year she had several students who had to repeat a biology class they’d taken the previous year from a different teacher. They described the experience as reading a textbook chapter, watching a PowerPoint, and taking tests. Yawn. “After using the Concord Consortium curriculum,” Emerlyn says, “the students realized they were capable of collecting, graphing, and analyzing data, and formulating models. They were not scared to share their ideas, especially if they had data to support their answers.”

Teacher Ambassador Emerlyn Gatchalian

Evidence of Emerlyn’s success as a teacher arrived one day when Concord Consortium InquirySpace researchers happened to be observing her—and ten district school principals and science coaches arrived to do the same! Her students were using lab sensors and other technology and designing their own plant biology investigations. Later, at a faculty meeting, her principal announced that the district observers were impressed by the quality of learning in her classroom. “For me, this is inspiring,” she explains, “because the recognition is an affirmation that our teaching and learning were in the right direction.”

Emerlyn believes, however, that teachers need more training in how to implement NGSS lessons and activities into their classrooms. “There are so many resources, but if we do not know how to utilize and implement them, then we can’t teach them.” She improved her own teaching by participating in Concord Consortium summer workshops: “They turned me into a reflective teacher and improved how I deliver my lessons.”

She says as an immigrant and a teacher of color, she gets support and an abundance of resources from fellow educators and never stops learning and preparing her students for the future. “As a STEM teacher, I hope to positively influence some of my students’ most important life decisions through activities and real-world applications where they can discover confidence, find hope, and begin to live to their full potential.”

Favorite ice cream: Vanilla