Chemistry teacher Jonathan Cadena keeps his students at Desert View High School in Tucson fully engaged. When they know the answer to one of his carefully constructed questions, they compete to get their teacher’s attention, hands held high. The active learning environment Cadena creates includes small group activities focused on completion and understanding. Cadena listens to his learners to assess their mastery, making sure they are thinking critically about the components and resulting compounds in their experiments. Arizona does not assess students in chemistry, but Cadena’s students at the Title I school perform well on pre- and post-assessments each semester, and more than 95% pass his class.
Cadena earns high praise from administrators, who often bring visitors, district personnel and board members to his classroom to observe his highly effective teaching style. Cadena has mentored other chemistry teachers on instructional practices, classroom management, lesson planning, and tailoring instruction through data-driven decisions. He plays a leading role in Desert View’s science department, writing grants, conducting professional development workshops, and managing inventory and chemical storage processes. Cadena stays abreast of emerging research and constantly incorporates new and innovative methods into his classroom.
Cadena is an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher; he has incorporated AVID strategies into his own classroom and helped other Desert View teachers do the same. Cadena serves as a stellar role model for the school’s predominantly Latino population, keeping college top of mind for academic students and reminding them to embrace lifelong learning. He sponsored an after-school science club for years and his students talk about pursuing careers in chemical engineering, the cosmetics industry and education. A skilled communicator in both English and Spanish, Cadena builds strong relationships with both students and parents.
Cadena earned a degree in science education with a focus on chemistry from the University of Arizona in 2010.
Press release: Strong student reactions earn chemistry teacher Jonathan Cadena a $25,000 Milken Educator Award
"The Milken Award has had a positive impact on my students, my former students and the community as a whole. We’re on the south side..." (read more)