Science teaching has a special place at Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia — especially in the spring, when National Teacher Day puts educators in the spotlight. In recent years three physics teachers have been designated Teacher of the Year at Central Gwinnett.
This year’s honoree is Lisa Knutson, the school’s Teacher of the Year for 2008. Another physics teacher, Garry Loveless, held that title in 1999, and Lila Adair held it the year before that. Adair, currently AAPT’s President of the Board, had already been Central Gwinnett’s Teacher of the Year in 1989 and in 1986.
This year, on behalf of AAPT, Adair honors Knutson and Loveless on Teachers Day, May 6. They have received plaques recognizing their contributions to physics and physics education and recognizing their work with students. Adair will also give each one a year’s AAPT membership and a subscription to The Physics Teacher.
Lisa Knutson received her MAT degree in Broad Field Science from Piedmont College in 2003. She followed it up with an internship at Central Gwinnett and subsequently joined the school’s faculty. She teaches Advanced Placement Physics and Forensics.
Knutson says natural curiosity led her to her career. She recalls breaking her Etch-a-Sketch with a hammer at age 5, to see how it worked, and examining maggots from a dead cow at the roadside when she was in high school.
“Physics is a natural fit for me,” Knutson says.
Garry Loveless has been teaching for 35 years, nineteen of them at Central Gwinnett. He has taught physics at all levels.
Loveless’s Bachelor’s Degree was in Chemical Engineering, his Master’s in Chemistry/Physics. He taught in an international school in Saudi Arabia and served in the Peace Corps.
“After a four-month training program, I found myself standing in front of 47 students who spoke no English, teaching chemistry and physics, and I loved it,” he says.
Loveless has been involved with AAPT and with Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) for many years, doing workshops and presentations at local schools and at the Georgia Science Teachers Association.
In addition to being honored by the school, Loveless and Adair have been recognized for their work by the State of Georgia. Loveless was a district winner in the Georgia Science Teacher of the Year program for 1999; Adair held that title in 1985.
In honor of National Teacher Day, AAPT President Lila Adair has written an open letter of appreciation to physics teachers. It was sent out to all AAPT members. It is reprinted below.
May 6, 2008
A letter to physics teachers
In recognition of National Teacher Day, the American Association of Physics Teachers wishes to express its appreciation and gratitude to you for your work with the physics students of America. Whether you teach in a high school, a two-year or four-year college, or a university, you are making a difference in the lives of our future scientists.
What is a teacher?
Great physics teachers are a gift. Their raw material is the natural curiosity of human beings. Teachers nurture that curiosity, develop a sense of wonder, encourage the thirst for knowledge, introduce the basic building blocks of mathematics and physics concepts, and help students apply those concepts to everyday life. Some of those students may become teachers in turn. Some may develop the skills necessary for serious physics research and go on to pursue advanced degrees, becoming the physicists of tomorrow. No matter at what level you teach, your role in the lives of your students is critical to their future success.
We are all teachers in one way or another. Teaching is an essential function in the life of every professional physicist, whether in a classroom, in a research laboratory, in seminars, in journals, or in dealing with the public on a community problem. Yes, we are educators, professors, researchers, or directors, but our first responsibility is to teach.
AAPT, as the leading organization for physics teachers and physics education, provides services to help you enhance your teaching skills. AAPT helps you enrich the lives and learning of your students and make your work more fulfilling. We invite you to join us — to read our outstanding journals, and participate in our workshops, seminars and conferences. We applaud your efforts, and we thank you for all your service to your students and to physics education.
Best wishes, and congratulations on your special day.
Lila Adair, President
Laura Ritter of Troy High School in Troy, MI, has been honored as the 2008 Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) Teacher of Promise. The award is given each year to a Michigan science teacher with less than 5 years of experience. Ritter is an active member of the Detroit Metropolitan Area Physics Teachers and serves as its secretary.
Ritter values her association with physics colleagues as a mechanism for mastering both physics and physics teaching. She served as a mentor of elementary school students while at the University of Chicago. After transferring to the University of Michigan she helped found a chapter of SMART to work with at-risk students. She designs her instruction to emulate scientific practice.
Harrison Schmitt is an Apollo 17 astronaut. He is, as he likes to say, the most recent walker on the Moon. An author and former US Senator from New Mexico, he holds a PhD in Geology from Harvard University. Schmitt gave an exciting and engaging account of his adventures in space last week at the spring meeting of the New England Sections of AAPT and APS.
Laura Nickerson is the other celebrity in the picture. A teacher of physics at the Beaver Valley Day School, she is the NESAAPT Representative to the AAPT Council. She was among some thirty physicists and teachers of physics who met April 4-5 at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT.
The science of homeland security was the theme of the meeting. There were talks on how to detect fissile material in container ships, on how to tell whether that cloud drifting toward you is delivering anthrax or just more of the weekend’s misting rain, and on “pain rays” -- possibly useful for crowd control. One of the speakers, Leah Beaulieu, described a program of courses at Joppatowne (MD) High School for teaching students about career work in homeland security – “a growth industry.”
Commander Paul Read, head of the USCGA physics department, and his hospitable staff made New England Section participants welcome and comfortable. It was a successful meeting in an interesting place.
Physicist and former AAPT President Albert “Al” Bartlett, right, spoke on "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy” at the University of Maryland in College Park on April 2. With him are physics professors Jordan A.Goodman, center, and Charles H. Holbrow, left.
Bartlett has given his lively talk more than 1600 times in the US and abroad, hoping to raise public awareness of how quickly population growth leads to exhaustion of petrochemical resources. He is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder and holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Harvard University.
Bartlett, Holbrow and Goodman share an AAPT connection: Bartlett was President of AAPT’s Executive Board in 1978; Holbrow was President of the AAPT Board in 2003, and is currently the organization’s Executive Officer. He retired from the physics department at Bartlett’s undergraduate alma mater, Colgate University, in Hamilton, New York in 2003 and is a Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA.
Goodman was the recipient of AAPT’s 2002 Richtmyer Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to physics and their communication to physics educators. He is a former Chair of the UMD Physics Department; his area of research is particle astrophysics. His Richtmyer Memorial Lecture was titled Neutrinos, Dark Matter, and the Cosmological Constant.
AAPT announces on March 7, 2008, the appointment of Charlie Holbrow as Executive Officer. Dr. Holbrow has been a dedicated member of AAPT for more than 46 years.
He was elected to the Executive Board in 2001, serving as President from 2003-2004. As a candidate for AAPT National Office, Holbrow wrote: “This AAPT community is a reservoir of experience, creativity, imagination, and wisdom with which to explore and foster innovations and improvements in physics education. Together we can merge what is best in what we already do with what is most promising in the possibilities before us.”
Please join the AAPT Executive Board and staff in welcoming Dr. Holbrow as he assumes his new position.