Student-Centered Education: TEACH Presents Christian Mahone

Cross-posted from TEACH.gov.

This post is the fourth in a summer-long, weekly blog series celebrating young teachers. We hope these profiles of teachers who have inspired their students and increased their classroom’s performance will inspire the next generation of teachers! Please visit our blog to see the previous posts.

As a young man attending high school in inner-city Chicago, Christian Mahone was struck by how “uninvolved and unmotivated many of my peers were when I attended school….students did not like attending school because teaching was more teacher centered than student centered. I had teachers who were not involved in their students’ academic or personal lives, which often resulted in a disconnect between what occurred in the classroom and how well students performed.” Christian saw that the teachers’ lack of involvement lead to student apathy, and knew he had to change the atmosphere in the classroom for the next generation.

Since that time, he has worked hard to complete his own education and develop skills that will help him make the changes he wishes to see in his classroom. He graduated this spring from Knox College in Galesburg, IL, with a major in Elementary Education and a double minor in Anthropology and Sociology, and Urban Society. This fall he will teach language arts, math, social studies, and science at Nielson Elementary School in Galesburg, IL.

After watching his peers lose interest in school, Christian will do whatever it takes to keep his own students engaged. He knows that not all of them will have the support at home that he did, and sees himself as a key motivational factor in all areas their lives. “If they don’t have that motivating force in their lives at home… it should come from school or a caring adult like a teacher,” says Christian. “When I saw the discrepancies in our community I could not sit back and let our youth continue to become products of statistics.” Christian tutored a number of his peers while still in high school and says it was those experiences that inspired him to become a teacher, “someone who can change lives in a greater way.”

Christian knows that it’s not enough to just be there for his students in the classroom. He plans to cultivate a culture of learning in his community by blurring the lines between life inside and out of the classroom. He plans to go to his students’ weekend sports games to build a rapport with them that will enable him to connect with them on multiple levels.

Above all he hopes that connecting his students’ academic and personal lives will inspire them to complete their education.

Professor Stephen Schroth of Knox College nominated Christian to be profiled because of his work “to provide Junior Great Books training to a diverse group of middle school students at Lombard Middle School as part of an award-winning program he helped to found and which was funded by a $35,000 grant he and other students received from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board.” Christian is also the 2011 winner of Knox’s Christopher E. Johnson award, given “to the graduating senior who best exemplifies the qualities needed in a great teacher: character, tenacity, dedication, and a positive attitude.”

Christian knows his role will be challenging, but will enable him to make a real difference. He says, “a school may lack certain resources [such as new technology and facilities], but if a school has an excellent and caring teaching staff, that can change the way that students view and react to their education.”