Michael Jansen: Rigour and engagement combine to prompt real learning

Year: 2018 – Province: Ontario

Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Michael Jansen

Crescent School
2365 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON M2L 1A2

School telephone: 416-449-2556
School website: https://www.crescentschool.org


Subjects and grades taught: Chemistry, Grades 11 and 12

"I'm in this for the long game," says Michael Jansen. He's not referring to his nearly 30-year career but rather to his practice of not teaching to tests. Former students say he is the best teacher they had at the all-boys school, and it may be because, as he says, "I never take my eyes off the prize: real learning."

Teaching approach

Michael sets high expectations for academic rigour and equally high expectations for deportment (students shake hands with him as they leave the classroom). But with posters explaining chemical concepts, student-made models hanging from the ceiling, and plenty of jokes during his lessons (and the occasional exploding microwave), everything in his classroom is designed to stimulate learning.

In the Classroom

  • Prepares detailed but effective slideshows for each of his lessons—to complement his teaching, encourage thinking and engagement, and give students a resource they can use outside of class to review concepts and deepen their understanding
  • Reinforces learning by presenting a topic earlier in the course than required, but multiple times and in small, low-stress doses; this "foreshadowing" allows students to become familiar with fundamental chemical concepts and understand them on a common-sense level
  • Instils the art of effective note-taking: each student prepares a 3"x 5" card to which he may refer during a test; this practice puts the emphasis on understanding rather than memorizing; students report it to be extremely effective, since they generally do not refer to the card during the test
  • Provides challenging co-curricular opportunities to senior students: one group researched, developed and tested laboratory activities for use in the Grade 11 and Advanced Placement curriculum, and took part in research being conducted by a university chemistry professor

Outstanding achievements

  • Received the Chemical Institute of Canada's Beaumier Award for High School/CÉGEP Chemistry Teachers in 2017
  • Was senior author for four chemistry textbooks and a contributing author for two others; he wrote a lab manual published by the provincial science teachers association and has a monthly column in a journal for chemistry teachers published by the University of Waterloo
  • Directs the school's summer program, a rigorous learning experience for high school students wishing to reach ahead in their studies in many areas of the curriculum

Rave reviews

"While often noting how hard his tests were, the students would talk about how fantastic his classes were and how much they were learning. Sixteen-year-old boys study for his tests like they're preparing for Kilimanjaro, and they do it without resentment. It's stunning to watch."