After an emergency evacuation to Australia as an orphaned infant following the fall of Saigon, design and technology teacher Zion Mitchell certainly has an exceptional background to draw upon. Combining the best of both cultures, he has become an invaluable member of the AIS teaching team, playing an instrumental role in preparing students for success at university and in their future careers.
Zion, you've been at AIS since 2020. Where were you before that?
I have been teaching both visual art and design technology at schools in Vietnam and Australia for over 15 years. Before that, I was a professional tennis coach for Tennis Australia in Melbourne, coaching a number of top teenage players. And I have been a Talent Development Coach here in Vietnam, where I coached the number one tennis player in the country, Do Minh Quan.
What appeals to you most about teaching at AIS?
Everything! I have strong principles about education, and many of my values are closely aligned with the vision and educational philosophy at AIS, so the school is a perfect fit. I wanted to live and work in Vietnam, the place of my birth, but to make a difference in the future of our young global citizens, domestically and internationally – giving back to the world community is very important to me. Being Australian (and educated in Australia) allows me to connect and relate to the curricula and the school culture very well.
How do you think your students would describe you?
I hope that my students consider me to be creative, flexible, patient, inspiring and fair with discipline. I also focus strongly on student wellbeing, and I encourage all of my students – from Years 7 to 13 – to develop sound social and emotional skills. This enables them to form stronger relationships, perform better academically, and help them cope with the stressors of daily life.
You play a pivotal role in pastoral care at AIS as Year 7 Student Welfare Coordinator. Tell us more.
I really enjoy being a Year 7 Welfare Coordinator as I can build relationships between the class level cohort and colleagues. I feel my role is to listen and assist, to make sure wellbeing is supported at every level. It is challenging at times, but a positive outcome benefits the students and allows me to reflect and learn about myself to improve constantly.
Professional development seems to be very important to you. Why is that?
I'm a very focused person with a lifelong love of learning. In addition to earning a Bachelor of Education in Visual Arts at the University of Melbourne, I have also gained an array of International Baccalaureate and Cambridge Curriculum teaching qualifications, and I am currently completing the Inspired Education Group’s Middle Leaders course.
Tell us about your role as a design and technology teacher and what you love about it.
I always feel happy when the students are engaged, positive, and learning. I like to connect with students by encouraging them to express their creativity through design concepts and the production process, motivating them with real design problems and solutions.
One of the most rewarding aspects for me is when the student becomes totally engaged with their learning and wants to complete the project for their own satisfaction – not just for the academic score, but to have pride in their progress and work.
Teaching is an amazing job, and I am incredibly enthusiastic about teaching design and technology. As a subject, it's very relevant to our world today as it encourages students to see a problem and find innovative solutions to make the world a better place, particularly concerning sustainability and culture.
Where can we find you when you're not at school?
I love tennis and play as often as possible, and I hope to become a first dan Black Belt in karate (I'm currently a Brown Belt). I rollerblade, play chess, and one of my favourite activities is spending time with my nine-year-old son – we enjoy some epic battles on our Xbox One.
What advice do you give your students to take into the future?
I always remind them that school is a wonderful and challenging place to discover what you are good at, what you need to do to improve, build social skills, deal with pressure, and a necessary stepping stone to finding yourself. These skills help students enjoy life outside the school walls and find their place within the broader community.