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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Chin’s forced departure a loss for the school

Sometime this spring, history teacher Jim Chin resigned. His resignation, however, was not totally voluntary — Mr. Chin said he was saddened he has to leave Saratoga, and according to Mr. Chin and information gathered in faculty interviews, it was likely a choice between resigning or being let go in a tenure-related decision. Resignation was the more dignified route, one that increased his chances of finding a job at another school. 
The news came as a shock to many — Mr. Chin was and is one of the most popular teachers in the school, supported by both the history department and students. I've never heard, in the rampant anger-fueled gossip of students, a negative word spoken against Mr. Chin, a rarity given the velocity and non-discriminatory nature of student vitriol. He even had the support of history department head Kim Anzalone, who advocated on his behalf. 
To be clear, Mr. Chin wasn’t popular because his class was easy. It was a sort of "relatability" and unconventionality that made Mr Chin more approachable, his classes more interesting than most. He’s known for telling memorable, strange anecdotes and employing out-of-the-box simulations to enliven events like the Great Terror. Now, his looming departure has sparked consternation among teachers and students, some of whom have organized to petition against his departure. 
Given his widespread support, why was he forced to resign? It couldn’t have been budgetary issues, as the school population rises and more teachers are hired than fired; in fact, the school is already interviewing for Mr. Chin’s replacement. That would point to some fault in teaching ability, which — given the glowing support of students and colleagues — seems a strange and unfortunate reason for his ouster. 
Another possible explanation might be a lack of experience, as Chin has only taught two years. This, if true, is not nearly a good enough reason to oust one of the school’s brightest teachers. If the jobs of younger teachers are so vulnerable, what does this tell aspiring education professionals? That youth and energy are qualities relegated to better-paying tech jobs? 
Only administrators, who make personnel decisions, really know their reason for the decision and are not commenting since personnel matters are considered private. 
Here, the lack of communication between administration and history department is disturbing. Wouldn't the department be more knowledgeable of the quality and ability of its own teachers? And the decision is clearly out of touch with the opinions of students, who have had far more time to "evaluate" a teacher than administrators.  
There is no doubt that personnel decisions can be difficult and excruciating, and it’s not right to vilify the administration here. To help ease the difficult process, such decisions should receive input from teachers and especially students. Despite their lack of experience, students are far better equipped to evaluate their teachers — they intrinsically understand whether the teacher’s homework is fair, whether he’s organized and competent, since they are the ones the teachers teach. Even receiving input from a randomly selected student would provide volumes of needed information. 
These days, teachers like Mr. Chin are exceedingly rare. A graduate of Monta Vista, a local high school, Mr. Chin is a breath of fresh air, a teacher who at last speaks the language of the students and brings an interesting, out-of-the-box approach to the classroom. And to add on to that, he, like many students, is an Asian-American and understands the unique struggles of that demographic.
It is so incredibly obvious, from his Facebook posts wishing last year’s students luck on their APUSH exam to how involved he was in school activities, that Mr. Chin cares — and that's why it is so incredibly disappointing and disillusioning to see him go. 
 
For those interested, this is a link to the petition:  http://chn.ge/1jqjIQ7
 
Reporting contributed by Deepti Kannan, Rachel Hull, Michelle Leung and Kelly Xiao
 
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