By: Mitchell Lai ’18
Dr. Justin Christensen joins the Bellarmine faculty as the new assistant principal of instruction and AP United States Government and Politics teacher.
As the assistant principal of instruction, Dr. Christensen helps new teachers assimilate into the Bellarmine community by “having a vision for how we can bring them into our community and put them in a place to succeed,” he said.
By regularly working with department chairs, Dr. Christensen hopes to instill a growth mindset in each member of the Bellarmine faculty.
“As teachers, we are lifelong learners. My job is to create the time and space for us to come together and have a growth mindset,” Dr. Christensen said. “It’s about taking chances. It’s about taking risks. It’s about learning and improving, seeing failure as a gift. As lifelong learners, we want to continually grow to be the best teachers we can be for the students.”
Prior to Bellarmine, Dr. Christensen worked at Saint Ignatius College Preparatory for 13 years, and he taught AP Government and Politics for 10 years. While teaching, Dr. Christensen practiced the growth mindset approach that he preaches.
“In the 10 years that I’ve taught AP Government, I’ve never taught it the same way,” Dr. Christensen said. “I teach the same concepts, but I teach different laws as a way to teach the concepts.”
He also notes his shift in teaching style, transitioning away from a lecture-based approach towards a focus on the practical applications of politics.
“I used to be very PowerPoint heavy, and now I focus more on case studies,” Dr. Christensen said. “In class, we’re going to get right into it, applying what you’ve learned to the case studies.”
Dr. Christensen coached the freshman baseball team during his time at Saint Ignatius.
“I have memories of heart-breaking losses against Bellarmine, but as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them, and that’s exactly what happened,” Dr. Christensen said.
Dr. Christensen earned his master’s degree at Harvard University, later receiving his doctorate from the University of San Francisco, where he researched new teacher induction in Jesuit education. Before pursuing his postgraduate studies, Dr. Christensen majored in political science at the University of California, Berkeley. He attributes much of his interest in political science to Berkeley’s environment.
“I grew up in that very exciting political environment. I had some really amazing professors at Cal, so that planted the seed. I love studying political science” Dr. Christensen said.
He has already established a friendly rivalry between his colleagues from Stanford University.
“I’m a big Cal guy,” Dr. Christensen said, “so Mr. Meyercord and Mr. McCrystyle have new competition on campus, especially when it comes to big game week.”
This year, Dr. Christensen hopes to simply learn about the Bellarmine community as he continues sharing his passion for both politics and education.
“I really want to learn this wonderful community. It’s truly exciting to be on the inside. Just walking around and watching teachers teach and seeing the expressions on the faces of our young men – I’m excited to be here,” Dr. Christensen said. “I’m already falling in love.”