Urbandale physics teacher Marc Hermon schedules “Board Battles” during first period on a February morning. Sophomores and juniors balance ionic compounds on dry erase boards in a themed activity. Working in teams, the Chemistry Pirates race against time to finish 100 equations during the class period.
“The excitement begins when the bell is about ready to ring. The last moment they’re trying to find the hidden treasure,” Hermon says.
The energetic physics teacher developed Board Battles after seeing how the exercise helped him recognize what exactly students understood. His ultimate goal — he compares it to winning a state championship — is getting every student to 100 percent efficiency.
Hermon feels environment and culture will spawn creativity. His decorative classroom located in Science West fits the idea. Hermon wanders from group to group, checking progress and joking about ironic pairings. He refers to his room as “Nerd Haven.”
“You can be a nerd here, and it’s awesome, and it’s cool,” Hermon says.
Principal Dr. Brian Coppess comments about how engaged the students are in Hermon’s classroom, something appreciated by administration.
Hermon is also an accomplished computer programmer who develops his own freeware that’s used in multiple classrooms. He attended school in Carlisle and later at Iowa, eventually choosing a teaching career over medical school.
“Like everyone’s story, I had a great teacher, who had a great teacher, who…,” Hermon says.
Twenty years later he’s teaching in Urbandale and can’t envision leaving.
“If you’re going to have a job, the No. 1 thing is make sure it’s a job that you like,” Hermon says.
He speaks to the importance of incorporating computer coding in to core curriculum. There’s a meeting later where he’ll continue his pitch. Hermon says coding skills are vital in the future economy.
“There are bills before your congressman that push to make coding part of the core education. All the jobs are trending in that direction,” Hermon says.
Physics students get right to work after the first period tone. They’re undistractable, pulling equations from laptops, then drawing out the formula on the dry erase board. Hermon jokes that some students are so focused the might snap if interrupted for a picture.
Serious students acquiring high level problem solving skills is an inspiring sight at Urbandale High School.