TPT 50th Anniversity book - page 16

I was introduced to
The Physics Teacher
while a sophomore in college, 45 years ago.
The physics department at Sam Houston State
University had hired me to teach introductory
labs for science majors and then, in subsequent
years, to additionally teach labs for liberal arts
majors. During that first summer of my “lab
teaching career,” I was assigned as lab assistant
for an introductory course that did not have a
designated lab manual. The course professor
turned the lab completely over to me, merely
telling me what topics he was teaching during
the week. It was my job to develop activities
to match those topics. Needless to say, this
was a daunting challenge for a young and
inexperienced physics major without formal
training as a lab assistant and little experience
as a lab student.
To help me meet this challenge, the course
. Those issues were a blessing! They gave
me ideas for lab activities and strategies for lab
investigations, and, in some cases, identified
areas that may challenge students as they
conducted the experiments, analyzed the data,
and prepared their conclusions. (Recall these
were the days before PER.)
Due to the small enrollment in the labs, I
had many opportunities to interact with the
students during each three-hour lab. Students
often expressed frustration in trying to learn
physics (i.e., pass the lecture exams) and not
understanding why they had to take physics.
Such comments from my students, in concert
with my reading of the discussions by
authors describing their own instructional
experiences, caused me to begin questioning
the role of the lab in physics education, and
also turned my thoughts to possibly choosing
physics teaching as a career.
I should not neglect to say that the articles
even taught me physics and continue
to do so to this day!
continued to be an invaluable resource
for me as I graduated from lab assistant to
high school teacher to college professor and
finally to sole physics faculty member at a
rural community college, this position lasting
for 35 years.
The Physics Teacher
has provided
feature articles and columns that have
kept pace with the changing instructional
environment and the changing needs of our
students enrolled in a diversity of introductory
physics courses and programs.
, together
with the
American Journal of Physics
, the
Texas Section AAPT meetings, and the
AAPT national meetings, provides me with a
readily accessible communication channel to
two-year college colleagues and to the larger
physics education and STEM communities,
thereby diminishing the continuous threat of
academic isolation.
It is important for readers to realize that as I
credit and praise
for successes I may have
had as a physics teacher, I am really praising
the work of the journal’s editors, Cliff Swartz,
Don Kirwan, and Karl Mamola. I relate
below a second story to illustrate the editors’
unselfish commitment to produce a quality
refereed journal that remains attractive and
relevant to the readership.
I am a member of the two-year college
physics teaching community, a community
that only about 25 years ago began to recognize
and embrace their successes as physics
teachers. Mike Neuschatz, AIP Statistics
Division, after analyzing the results of the
first-ever two-year college survey (1996),
described the two-year college as a “hidden
resource.” Subsequently, programs such as
Mary Beth Monroe
Mary Beth Monroe is a professor and chair of the physical science
department at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, TX. She served
as Secretary of AAPT (2001-2007) and was also Member-at-Large for
Two-Year Colleges for two terms (1979-1982, 1994-1997). She is currently
President-Elect. She has received the AAPT Distinguished Service Award
as well as the Melba Newell Phillips Medal.
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