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Chris Blockus

approach to education

Chris Blockus is an innovative teacher, mentor, team leader, and curriculum developer who taught 7th grade social studies for 8 years at Mountain View Middle School, the only school in New Jersey to receive three consecutive “Schools to Watch” designations. There, he co-designed and implemented a thematic and comparative social studies curriculum that focuses on understanding societies through cultural, political, economic, and technological paradigm shift.  The New Jersey Department of Education highlighted this curriculum as a major factor in Mountain View’s historic redesignation:  

“This year, the school launched a new thematic curriculum for Social Studies which includes the use of primary sources and a multi-media approach.  This new curriculum has been introduced to cultivate students’ habits of mind and sense of individual responsibility through a program that is grounded in the social sciences and their foundational perspectives.“

Inspired by the work of Wiggins, Tomlinson, Wormeli, Kohn, Marzano, and O’Connor, Chris provides his students with the instruction they deserve by aligning to the highest possible standard of research-based best practice. Because Chris recognizes that new findings help refine educational principles, he remains reflective about his teaching style. The data-driven philosophy and skill set that Chris has cultivated as an educator have allowed him to help his school and community re-imagine the role of an educator.

perspectives from students

When asked to respond to an anonymous survey about Chris's class, his students had these insights to share:

“I loved this class. It was easily my favorite class this year. I was so excited to come to class everyday. The format of thius [sic] class made Social Studies so much more fun and interesting. This class really gave me different views on things. Also, most Social Studies classes are just about learning about historical people. This class gives students the opportunity to apply what they learn to everyday society.”

“I enjoyed the class because the topics we learned about were what I wanted to learn about since 4/5th grade. I felt as if I would want my 7th grade teacher to teach my 8th grade social studies class too”

“I love social studies and I can't wait for the next years [sic] kids to learn what we learned.”

“I enjoyed the class overall because it introduced many new concepts to me about what society is and what you must do to understand it.”

"Overall, I enjoyed class very much because unlike previous social studies classes, there wasn't much just reading from textbooks or being given random historical facts that might be forgotten in a few years anyway. Class was also much more interesting to me because each class had its own debate, which allowed me to see every point of view and understand the topic better.”

“Every little section and problem we learned was just a little piece to the big puzzle. The order we went with was very helpful because we were able to use what we past learned into a new idea and then that new idea would be put into the problem of the year.”

“ gave me a new mental structure on how to look at situations, look at general topics in life, and how to solve problems.”

“learning ecconomics [sic] is a major role in society and finally learning and understanding it made me feel responsible and curious.”

“I did like working toward a larger problem because it ensured that us kids didn't just drop all of the information in one unit just because the unit had ended.”

“The most memorable lesson was when we were taught about the feminine stereotype and how it wasn't true because I have been annoyed at how everyone thinks that girls are dainty and delicate when there is no scientific proof that they are.”

“I felt that the learning was evenly paced, we always had enough information to write the essays and problems, and that there was never a time when we were not expanding on something we already knew, or learning new things.”

“...i [sic] love to debate and learn new exciting things that will help me in life. There was a lot of cool information and resources, and i [sic] liked your discussion teaching styles. It was definitely a influential and entertaining class.”

perspectives from parents

Parents of former students have reached out to praise Chris's teaching, writing:

"I enjoyed listening to [my daughter] grapple with big ideas introduced in your classroom. I was tickled pink, in fact!"

"Wanted to let you know that both my children, [...] enjoyed your classes (and [elective class] also) tremendously. Your lessons were always thought provoking, and your subject was the only one that they brought the animated discussions to home. There were frequent recounting of things "Mr. Blockus said". [When they disagreed with an opinion expressed in class], they felt a need to substantiate their dissenting view, which we well understood was the point of your exercise. As a social studies educator, we cannot ask for better. [...]thank you for being a great teacher."

"[My son] loved having you as his Social Studies teacher last year and thoroughly enjoyed your class. We would always here about your class and what he learned. My youngest is starting [middle school] next year and I had hoped you would still be there when she reached 7th grade."

"You [sic] just a realistic teacher who not only helps the kids learn but helps them understand the world and not take themselves so seriously."

" are a wonderful teacher and really made the kids think."

perspectives from administrators

Chris Blockus is a "highly effective" teacher, the best possible administrative evaluation according to New Jersey's AchieveNJ Scoring Guide. In addition to evaluating him as such, administrators have selected Chris to present at the National Schools to Watch Conference 3 times, and to co-accept Mountain View Middle School's historic re-designation award as well. Chris was also selected to present at the Rutgers Institute for Improving Student Achievement and the New Jersey Association for Middle Level Education, and to speak to Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen in Washington, D.C. on behalf of middle level education.

Administrators have praised Chris’s practice in written observation reports and summative annual evaluations:

"The culture for learning you have created is outstanding. You have asked your students to think and create, and they have responded. They actively participated and asked excellent questions. [...] Expectations for conduct were clear and your response to student behavior was subtle, yet highly effective and appropriate."
-Dean of Students David Moser, Observation Report, April 2, 2009

"I remain impressed with the strength of your commitment to reflective practice. You reinvent your course each year; learning and growing from the cumulative lessons that have gone before. You constantly challenge yourself to better identify and understand the unique needs of your young learners. [...] You have high expectations for yourself and your students, yet you are cognizant of the need to provide varying degrees of support to help your students succeed. [...] You selflessly give of your free time to ensure the help students need to be confident in their work. [...] This year you worked tirelessly to bring a rigorous and unique social studies curriculum to life. You developed a program that takes students on a four year journey that incorporates the various lenses of the social sciences to help students understand and evaluate the world we have created. Your patience and willingness to present the proposed changes to supporters and critics alike has earned you the respect of your supervisors and colleagues."
-Principal Patricia Lambert, Annual Summative Evaluation, 2009-2010

"Your unit planning was based on thematic goals. Your lessons were organized based on the principals of understanding by design and Bloom's taxonomy. [...]You utilized edited, completely unified rubrics. Differentiation was evident through tiered readings, use of mixed media in presentation, and the development of alternative assessments for exceptional students that provided evidence of thematic mastery of understandings while taking readiness into account. You created an environment based on academic excellence. [...] You encourage an environment of acceptance and individuality through problem-solving methodology"
-Principal James Bigsby, Annual Summative Evaluation, 2011-2012

"Mr. Blockus's class functions on an academic level very different than most peers. The academic nature is very elevated and thus so is the conversation and expectations."
-Principal Charles Seipp, Annual Summative Evaluation, 2013-2014