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Van Chau: helping students reach higher ground

Year: 2019 – Province: British Columbia

Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Van Chau

Science and biology, grades 10–12
Delview Secondary School, Delta, British Columbia

"Ms. Chau is an exceptional teacher who challenges her students in creative and intellectual ways. She goes beyond teaching her students and wholeheartedly supports them in overcoming obstacles that they might face in the classroom."  — Former student

Arriving in Canada as immigrants, Van Chau and her family prospered in the face of adversity. She inspires her students to see farther than they thought they could and reach higher.

Teaching approach

Van encourages her students to be independent learners, to be punctual and to be paragons of grit and perseverance, qualities she models and believes are necessary for lifelong learning.

In the classroom

  • Organizes, or lets students organize, hands-on activities so they can do, know and understand the curriculum: for example, students place imaginary animals in a complex evolutionary tree of life, replicate Darwin's finches by designing bird beaks using items such as plastic forks, and develop Rube Goldberg machines.
  • Develops games to build critical and creative-thinking skills: random groups answer science questions worth more points as they get harder; the discussion of possible answers, and the range of difficulty of the questions mean everyone can join in.
  • Uses technology to allow students to explore science, biology and life through modern mediums: students each created a Facebook or Twitter page about an enzyme and then interacted as their enzyme with other student's enzyme pages, making connections based on how enzymes actually behave.
  • Stresses reconciliation with First Peoples: biology students classify an animal important to Indigenous Peoples, determine its species name and the name First Peoples have given it, write a description of its significance in legend and draw it in the style of West Coast Indigenous art.

Outstanding achievements

  • Developed a workbook for demanding Biology 11 and 12 classes: visuals and bullet-point notes cover major concepts, give key definitions and set out connections between concepts, streamlining the course content and introducing higher level details to high-ability students.
  • Students perform better than the B.C. average on provincial exams and receive awards and prestigious scholarships, despite coming from a small school in a socio-economically diverse area.
  • Collaborates with colleagues on weekly science challenges for all grades: groups attempt to come up with the best design for, for example, a paper airplane, aluminum barge or mousetrap car.
  • Has written or co-authored several high school science textbooks for B.C.; writes and marks provincial exams, reviews curriculum and leads workshops on science education at conferences.

Get in touch!

Delview Secondary School
9111 116 Street
Delta BC V4C 5W8
Twitter: @delview

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