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Interview With St. John – Wonder Teacher

By: Joyce Ye

st. johnMark St. John, a Calculus BC teacher who has managed to help 80% of his students obtain a 5 on the AP exam, shares his experiences in teaching with Rising Star editor Joyce Ye.

Q: How long have you been working at this school, and what do you think of the students here?
St. John: This is my thirteenth year at Cupertino High School. It’s a pleasant place, and it is the only place I’ve ever worked at. Sometimes I listen to other teachers describe their experiences with very obnoxious kids, and I’m glad because Cupertino High School has extremely pleasant students.


Q: Being so experienced in the teaching industry, could you give some tips to teachers who have just started teaching?

St. John: There are a couple of things which really stand out to me about teaching. One thing that people tend not to think about is that a teacher has to be able to handle all the paper that teaching generates. If you don’t have an organized system for dealing with the paperwork, then you will quickly become overwhelmed. Secondly, I think it is really important to get yourself into the students’ shoes and try to anticipate what they are going to be confused about and what questions they are going to have.

Q: Some teachers are popular with the students, but do not really enhance the students’ knowledge. Other teachers are efficient at helping students learn, but are not very well liked by the students. In your opinion, is there a way to ensure both being well liked and helping to enhance the knowledge of students?
St. John: I think the primary role of the teacher is to make sure that he or she can enhance the knowledge of the students. The teacher has to focus on that first, rather than being well liked. In my experience, kids appreciate if a teacher teaches well and if a teacher enhances their knowledge.

Q: In your opinion, what type of student do you think is the hardest to teach?
St. John: A student who really doesn’t see any purpose for being at school, and who has no idea why they’re there and just wants to go through the motions.

Q: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as a teacher?
St. John: I decided that one way to get to know students at the start of the year is to have everyone sit in alphabetical order. So on the second day of the year, I was teaching two Geometry Enriched classes and one Geometry class. In my second G.E class, I was sure that I saw the same kid sitting in the same spot as in the previous class. I thought that maybe he had moved up from the previous class, so that was fine. In my third class, I looked up and saw the same kid again, so I went up to him.
I asked him, “Were you sitting in my previous class?”

He looked at me and answered, “No, that must have been my brother Ronald.”
So I asked, “What’s your name?”
He said, “My name is Donald.”

Then I asked, “But I also think that in my first class I saw you.”
And he goes, “Yeah, that was my brother Arnold.”

About Joyce Ye

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