Wong recognized for fervor, teaching skill
Instructor receives ‘Golden Bell’ award
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 15:09
Teaching and helping students is something that Mark Wong loves to do.
His students wanted to show their gratitude toward him on Aug. 16 at the All College Day event in the Knox Center.
With members of the Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society, students presented the annual “Golden Bell” award to the adjunct astronomy, physics and engineering professor.
After AGS public relations specialist Thom Phongviehit read quotes that AGS students wrote about the instructor at the event, Wong accepted his award and looked dumbfounded by all the nice things the students said about him.
“He was about to cry and his voice was cracking as he spoke. He really appreciated (the award). He truly deserves it,” physics major Rodolofo Orellana said.
Although Wong said he believes otherwise and has yet to earn the award fully.
“I hope that I will earn it at some point in my career without doubt, but I am incredibly grateful,” Wong said. “I promise I will work twice as hard in the future for the honor they have given me.”
Every year during the group’s annual potluck in early May, the students vote on who should be given the award, Orellana said.
Orellana was one of the people who nominated Wong for the “Golden Bell.”
The other nominees for the annual honor were mathematics professor Terrill Mead and mathematics teacher Ed Cruz.
Phongviehit said Wong won this year’s AGS “Golden Bell” because he takes real life situations and applies them to class to make material more understandable.
Phongviehit said it is encouraging to hear Wong say, “You’re awesome” to his students at the end of all of his classes.
Wong is a Bay Area native. He was born in Marin and grew up in San Francisco until the sixth grade before moving to Walnut Creek.
He then started taking classes at Diablo Valley College during high school.
Wong attended college at UC Berkeley where he got his bachelor’s degree in physics with concentration on astrophysics before going to UC San Diego for his master’s degree in materials science engineering.
Wong said that he did not think about being a teacher at first.
“When I applied to grad school I was too shy so I applied to condensed matter physics. Because it was an applied field I figured I could work for a company,” Wong said. “For grad school, it requires you to teach at a lecture hall for a year. I was terrified.”
The checklist for Wong’s grad school requirements, however, was working as a lab assistant and he said that he enjoyed walking around talking to people about science.
This confidence made Wong take education classes and workshops to prepare him to teach physics as an instructor.
As he progressed through graduate school, Wong said that he started becoming more passionate sharing his general knowledge of science.
He started teaching part time while going to school during the day.
Wong said that he never did finish his doctorate program because he not write a thesis for his Ph.D.
Instead Wong was working full-time at Contra Costa College for a semester while Jon Celesia, astronomy, physics, engineering and geology (APEG) department chairperson, was on sabbatical.
“CCC is a wonderful school and the students here are so amazing. The Center for Science Excellence is what makes this place so special.” Wong said, “It’s the sense of community at a community college level and the faculty really tries to help students pursue science as a discipline.”
CSE Director Seti Sidharta said that Wong is the “jack of all trades” and is a great CSE mentor for the students.
Wong helps them with homework, being a chaperone to places like the Intel Museum and going rock-climbing.
“If we ever get a full-time position open here, I hope he applies for it because it would be a tremendous loss to CCC if he goes somewhere else,” Dr. Sidharta said.
Celesia said that he currently holds the only full-time position in the APEG department due to the state’s low budget.
Outside of teaching, Wong said that he enjoys kayaking and attending football games at Cal.
He is known to have a monstrous sweet tooth by his students. His favorite candy bar is Milky Way and offers them to whoever visits his office.
He is also an avid baker.
“Once a week I will bake something. I like that the subtle changes in the length in time or temperature can make something different,” Wong said. “It really appeals to the scientist in me.”
When not teaching at CCC he works in the Peralta Community College District teaching courses in physics and astronomy at Laney College and the College of Alameda.