March 2021: Debbie Andres
Paramus High School, Paramus, NJ
- Member since 2015
- Teacher of Physics and Engineering
- Paramus, NJ
When I was in 4th grade, my teacher gave me an opportunity to attend a girls in STEM summer program. I was surprised to learn that someone like me could have a career in engineering. I remember finally being able to take Physics in 11th grade. This was the ultimate test of my ability; I needed to be good at Physics, otherwise my dreams of becoming an engineer would be shattered. With hard work and a fantastic high school Physics teacher, I was successful. As an undergraduate in the Mechanical Engineering program at the Rutgers School of Engineering, I was finally embarking on the journey towards gaining the qualifications I would need to become an engineer. However, it was during my freshman year of college where I found another passion and that was helping my friends with physics. My Rutgers physics professor, Dr. Suzanne White Brahmia, recognized me as a top performing student in her course and guided me towards the learning assistant program. She introduced me to a Dean who brought teaching as a career into my radar. As a recipient of the Robert Noyce Scholarship, my new dream of becoming a high school physics teacher began to take shape and I was accepted to the Rutgers Physics Teacher Preparation Program to work towards my Ed.M.
My first AAPT meeting was the Summer 2015 meeting at College Park. As a graduate student, I was encouraged to go by my advisor, Professor Eugenia Etkina. I was excited to meet new people and the conference opened up a whole new world to me. I met so many Physics educators who had the same mentality as me: to make a difference in the lives of many young and aspiring students. Immediately wanting to be involved, I signed up to be on a committee. The following year I was selected to be on the Committee on Physics in High Schools. I started making connections and friends that I would always be happy to see at the conferences. Over the years, I became more involved in committees. I am currently on the Membership and Benefits Committee, Bauder Endowment Committee, and the National Nominating Committee. I also represent the New Jersey AAPT as the Section Representative and serve as Vice Chair of the Committee on Physics in High Schools. Being a part of the AAPT community has given me a broader view on physics education that spans beyond my own experiences.
Having been a part of AAPT for a little over five years, I have grown a lot as a professional. I do not consider myself a formal Physics Education researcher, but I feel that I have been given many opportunities to present my work and endeavors from my classroom. My high school has all the freshmen take Physics and it is exciting to be the first lab science they encounter at the high school level. I incorporate Standards Based Grading (SBG) in my instruction, as I have presented at past conferences. I am interested in the effects of SBG on student motivation and self-efficacy. I pioneered the AP Physics 2 course at my high school and have been incredibly fortunate to work with 10th-12th graders who have such a strong interest in physics. I spent a lot of years early on in my education wanting to become an engineer and I am so fortunate to have discovered my true path as an educator. Over the past five years, I have worked within my classroom to create an environment where students feel comfortable with expressing their ideas in STEM courses. My goal is to become a STEM supervisor who not only develops a strong, inclusive K-12 STEM program but also train teachers on how to help their students develop confidence and positive STEM identities.
I have learned a lot from this organization and I am committed to helping the organization grow. Over the years, we have seen the number of high school teacher members decrease. As the new Vice Chair to the Committee of Physics in High Schools, I am hoping to introduce more high school science teachers to the benefits of AAPT. I also want to help establish a stronger community of high school teachers in AAPT and more of a sense of belonging in AAPT. This begins with more interaction between practitioners (teachers) and researchers. So at the next AAPT conference, challenge yourself to talk to someone new and someone on the opposite spectrum. We have a lot to learn from each other. Feel free to stop me and say hi to me! My career path is a little different than others in AAPT, but I am a physics teacher at my core and I look forward to continuing being a part of the growing AAPT community.