Every year, we are honoured to recognize members of the SMUS community as they retire and take on new adventures. Read the 2019 Retirees series to learn more about their outstanding contributions to the school. In this story, we recognize Gordon Chan, former Junior School teacher and IT coordinator.
It would have been hard to predict the technological changes in store for the classroom when Gordon Chan was hired. His acumen, curiosity and desire to teach supported and led the Junior School into the age of technology.
“When I started at the SMUS Junior School, some of the faculty did not know what a computer was,” he says.
Gordon was initially hired as a Social Studies teacher with computers “to round off (his) job description.” Early on, Gordon introduced a digital report package to replace handwritten reports. Grinning, Gordon shares that one teacher would pay a secretary extra to type his pencil-written notes. “He thought computers would be just a flash in the pan.” Now each Junior School classroom is equipped with iPads and laptops, and there’s a 3D printer and a laser printer in the Imagination Lab to educate and engage the students.
Gordon’s role soon expanded to include his work as a computer instructor, though Social Studies remained the main focus. Unofficially, he took care of hardware/software support for teachers and did sound and lighting for productions, as well as school photography. In 2013, Gordon stopped teaching Social Studies and became the IT coordinator for the Junior School, which evolved into teaching Digital Skills and ADST (Applied Design Skills Technology). He helped facilitate the integration of technology for teachers and students. “Think, make and redo” was one of Gordon’s classroom mantras. Technology was instrumental in supporting students to express their unique understanding of subject matter.
One Grade 4 project Gordon worked on with students was coming up with ways to attract people to take care of the ocean. For a World Oceans Day, the class created colourful, compelling trading cards, with images and information about endangered species, and handed them out at Fisherman’s Wharf in downtown Victoria.
Looking back over his 22 years at SMUS, there have been several significant changes. “I was the only Asian male staff teaching a core subject then,” he states. “If I’d asked a student what was different about me, they would have said ‘you’re Chinese’. Now, we’re much more diverse, the answer might be ‘you’re short.’”
The other shift, he says, is the need to educate the young on responsibility and digital citizenship that did not exist 22 years ago. “If it’s on the screen, it must be true, that’s what they think,” he says. “We need to talk to them about it. You want them to stay innocent for as long as possible, but we have to teach them.”
As times changed, SMUS became more globally aware as well. Classroom discussions explored history from different perspectives, and Gordon found that it was a way to encourage empathy and “change the conversation.” Through nurturing citizenship that goes much deeper than being able to discern “right from wrong,” he worked to encourage students to pitch in when people need assistance.
Through the years, Gordon has always felt thankful for the student opportunities at SMUS. “More doors are open to them in life and to learn,” he says. He was drawn to teaching from an innate desire to help make a difference. He enjoyed “having an impact on children learning at a stage where they can take what I have taught them to help them become good citizens.” Two of his three sons were also SMUS Lifers.
And now? Time for more travel, photography and more time with his wife, Margaret. He’s also looking forward to teaching technology skills at the Immigration and Refugee Centre of Victoria.