July 2022: Sarah Formica
University of North Georgia, Dahlonega, GA
- Member since 2020
- Fuller E. Callaway Professorial Chair and Professor of Physics
- Dahlonega, GA
My journey into physics and physics teaching followed a long and winding road. As an undergraduate, I tried a few different majors ranging from pre-med to engineering, when I finally landed on physics, but I wasn’t sure what I would do with the physics degree. One of my professors took notice of my abilities in research and asked me to work with her in her lab, which went so well that I decided to pursue a Ph.D. with her as my advisor. She taught me how to be an influential researcher and teacher, and she inspired me to be a mentor to my physics students.
At the start of my teaching career, I attended the AAPT New Physics and Astronomy Faculty workshop and learned about Just-in-Time Teaching and Peer Instruction. Right away, I began using these pedagogies to great success and even inspired some of my older and more experienced colleagues to try them out. I joined AAPT and SACS-AAPT to continue learning about evidence-based teaching methods and share with others what had worked for my students and me. Through these connections and relationships, I eventually found my way to PhysTEC and developed a Learning Assistant program and Physics Teacher Education program in our department. We now have 20-25 LAs in physics, astronomy, engineering, and chemistry classes at UNG, and we have successfully recruited 11 students into our PTE program. We produced our first physics teacher this year, with many more to come!
I am so thankful for my advisor who saw my potential, for my colleagues who have continuously supported me in my efforts to improve my teaching, and for the friends I have made through AAPT. One of my favorite things about being a physics teacher is when students realize that they can do physics and recognize that they belong – that they are a physics person. The AAPT community has always made me feel like I belong, which has made all the difference to me and my career. I hope to pay that forward to my students.