Sewanhaka Teacher Named ‘Distinguished’


Jack Chen of Sewanhaka High School has been named a Distinguished Teacher of 2015 by the Harvard Club of Long Island.

“Our awards honor teachers who spend transform lives,” explained Dr. Judith Esterquest, Harvard Club of Long Island chair of the distinguished teacher selection committee. “Dedicated teachers like Mr. Chen offer Long Island students deep expertise, extraordinary talents and countless hours of devotion.”  

One of 14 teachers from across Long Island to receive this award—from across the 150 public school districts and private schools on Long Island— Chen will be honored at the Harvard Club of Long Island’s annual University Relations Luncheon on April 26. Following the award ceremony, Alyssa A. Goodman, professor of astronomy at Harvard University, will highlight her work at the boundary of astrophysics and data visualization. Today’s scientific breakthroughs often depend on scientists employing visualization tools to gain insight and draw conclusions from tremendously large and diverse data sets.

Goodman’s lecture, entitled “Seeing Science,” will be structured as a historical saga, beginning with Galileo and ending with how virtual reality and immersive tools are changing how we “see” stars forming and arteries hardening.

Chen has been a career and technical education department teacher at Sewanhaka High School for five years. He teaches instrumentation and automation, a multi-year pre-engineering elective that includes an introduction to computer science, several units dedicated to applied electronics with microcontrollers, and a year of AP Physics.

Outside of class, Chen advises the district’s Robotics Club, and has worked with other teachers to set up a “Maker Space” as part of a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education initiative.

Chen holds a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, a master of science in mechanical engineering from Case Western Reserve University, a master of business administration from Georgetown University, and a master of arts in teaching from Bard College.

Prior to this position, he held various engineering, operations management, and corporate finance roles in large manufacturing companies. Chen entered the teaching profession after being awarded a Math for America Fellowship, which helped support him through his graduate teaching program and first four years of his teaching career.

Nominated by Shahrukh Khan, a former Sewanhaka High School student who will graduate from Harvard College in June 2017, Chen was described as so much more than a teacher— a friend who was could always lend an ear, a mentor “giving limitless time before and after school,” and a counselor who helped guide students through the college application requirements and essays and gave financial aid tips all while teaching them “to make their own decisions, and not rely solely on adults.”

“Mr. Chen greatly helped me transition from a high school mindset to a college one,” Khan said. “I had him for three years, and not a single day passed when he didn’t bring something new to the table.”

At the ceremony on April 26, the Harvard Club of Long Island will announce the Distinguished Teachers of 2015 who will also receive scholarships for a “Harvard experience” at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, MA. Past winners of the scholarships have enhanced their teaching by sampling some of the resources available to Harvard students.

“The district is proud of Mr. Chen’s accomplishments,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ralph Ferrie, who commended Chen’s “outstanding teacher leadership.”

The Harvard Club of Long Island has recognized Sewanhaka School District teachers in the past. These include earth science teacher Yvonne Sherwood and physics teacher David Sexton.

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