Florida teacher reaches for the stars – Jason Mocherman, USA
The latest global economic downturn hit school budgets particularly hard: purchases were deferred, technology was delayed, and unfortunately, students often bore the brunt of it. At Sarasota, Florida’s Riverview High School, the recession seemed to be the end of the school’s beloved 1960s-era planetarium, which was not slated to be replaced when the school was being rebuilt.
But thanks to Jason Mocherman, not only did the planetarium survive, it came back bigger and better than ever. Featuring a digital projection system, dynamic lighting, surround-sound audio and planetarium-style seating, the science center is now the largest of its kind in a Florida public school.
Mocherman galvanized his community through the Riverview High School Foundation, helping to raise around $380,000 of the new science center’s $1.4 million budget. And since it re-opened in 2010, the planetarium has served over 10,000 students each year.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind learning facility that allows us to present information and educate people in a very unique way,” says Mocherman. “There’s a lot you can do with it. It’s an immersive theater and anything you can create on a computer we can create in the planetarium.”
Since he began teaching in 2000, Mocherman’s commitment to science education has scored points with his students, too. He consistently earns praise like “Best teacher I’ve ever had…” and “Loves his job. Loves his students…even the ones he has to prod.”
Beyond his own classes, Mocherman also helps fellow educators raise their game. This Education Week webinar, for example, is designed to bridge the digital gap between home and school. As a new Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Mocherman will have the opportunity to reach many more teachers with his insights on teaching with technology. And we expect they, too, will be reaching for the stars.
Enjoy today’s inspiring Daily Edventure with Jason Mocherman.
What inspired you to become an educator?
My dad was a teacher at the high school I went to. I never gave it much thought until I was in high school and saw how much the students there respected him and loved his classes. I was amazed at the rapport he had with his students and wanted to follow that legacy.
What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?
In 2009 our school was rebuilt. At the time I was running a 50-seat planetarium that had been in the school since 1968. We were running daily planetarium field trips for thousands of elementary students. Due to the economic downturn of that time, the planetarium was cut from the building project. With the help of many, I was able to raise the money needed to rebuild this facility. We now have a state-of-the-art
Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?
The future job market will be intense and very competitive. Teaching our students to not only think, but to use all available resources to solve problems, will be critical to their performance. I believe that productive use of technology that teaches young people creative skills which will be useful in the future is my number one priority in my classroom.
Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?
All of us have felt the budgetary restraints that the recession brought. At a time of incredible technological advancement, our ability to purchase and integrate technology was low. We are now beginning to see the upturn of the economy that is allowing us to begin integrating new technology into our classrooms again.
In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future?
It is my hope that we begin to see new technologies that allow students and teachers to become better connected and allow for more transparent sharing of information. Management of student information and maximizing the school day should be the focus of new technology initiatives.
About Jason Mocherman (@jmocherman)
Astronomy Instructor, Planetarium Director, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert
Riverview High School
Sarasota, Florida, USA
- Birthplace: Noblesville, Indiana
- Educational background: Bachelors in Education, Masters in Education Leadership
- Website I check every day: APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day)
- Favorite childhood memory: Viewing Halley’s Comet with my Dad.
- Favorite book: A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Office 365
- What is the best advice you have ever received? You don’t have to teach them something new every day, just inspire them to learn every day.