Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
I was hired by Syracuse University in 1993, to fill the Lab Manager position, responsible for both introductory labs and lecture demonstrations, vacated by two retirees (yes, one “newbie” to replace two people). Two retired high school teachers were attempting to introduce order into the chaotic demo room, were introduced to me as Fitz and Drenchko. At the time I did not realize just how fortunate I was. Fitz and Drenchko became the most amazing mentors imaginable, and were solely responsible for introducing and encouraging me to join AAPT.
During my first AAPT National Meeting, my new mentors introduced me to a group they thought were important for me to meet – the fun PTRA high school teachers! They also told me about a new organization called PIRA, so I hunted them down as well. I immediately felt at home. Those initial connections are largely responsible for engaging me as a new AAPT member, and that’s why I place so much importance on the Early Career Speed Networking session at the National Meetings. This presents a great opportunity for those new to AAPT to learn about the organization, and maybe even have the good fortune of meeting a new mentor.
I am also involved in a few activities outside of my department. Since I started at SU, I became active in the Syracuse University High School Teacher Saturday Morning Workshops (founded by guess who? Yup, Fitz and Drenchko!). Working with these teachers is very rewarding and our relationship is quite synergistic. We each have much to learn from the other. I also work closely with the local science museum. It’s a great place with not much budget. I help them design and build exhibits, write some signage, and repair broken exhibits. It truly is a labor of love. I enjoy interacting with the public while I am in the museum as well. The museum is a place where people go because they want to learn something just for the joy of learning, and spreading the joy of science brings me great joy. Lastly, I have been the president of the NY state section of AAPT for the last ten years. When I started, the section was not very active, and we are now thriving! The board is great, they make the section go. Section members ‘fight’ to host section meetings, and with the cooperation of the NJ and NE sections, we have put together some absolutely fantastic regional meetings. Those meetings are a blast and abuzz with activity and enthusiasm. I’m proud to work with such great people at those meetings.
AAPT has overall been incredibly beneficial to my career. I cannot emphasize enough just how much I learned (and still continue to learn) from my peers. That knowledge made me an invaluable member in my department at Syracuse, and this helped to continue their support of my AAPT activities. Some members may not receive the full support of their department, and that is unfortunate for their students. Ultimately, my students reap huge benefits from my activities in AAPT.
My favorite aspect of teaching physics is that moment when I see my student’s ‘aha lights’ turn on, when before there was darkness. Why else would anyone want to teach? It sounds cliché but I believe that’s one of the greatest rewards of being a teacher.