2008 September Announcements

News Items
September 2008

PhysTEC Noyce Will Support Physics Teachers

The American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) recently won a $750k award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide Noyce Teacher scholarships to around 30 future physics teachers over the next 5 years. These teachers, who will receive up to $15,000 of scholarship support per year for up to two years, will be selected from institutions participating in the PhysTEC project. PhysTEC is led by APS, AAPT, and the American Institute of Physics (AIP), with the goal of increasing the number of qualified high school physics teachers in the U.S.

Funding for the scholarships comes from the NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, which is designed to support future science, technology, engineering, and math teachers. According to NSF Program Officer Joan Prival, the Noyce program began in 2002, and as of Fall 2007 had supported approximately 1500 teachers from 91 institutions. For every year of scholarship support teachers receive, they commit to teach for two years in a “high need” school district, which is defined as any district in which at least one school has a high proportion of low-income students or out-of-field teachers, or a high teacher turnover rate.

These criteria include a significant fraction of schools in the U.S., not just the most needy. According to Gay Stewart, a University of Arkansas physics professor and PhysTEC site leader who also administers an independent Noyce project, “the problems of teacher turnover and out-of-field teaching are so widespread, especially in science, that my Noyce teachers are easily able to find qualified high need schools to work in.” A recently published study from AIP suggests that, not surprisingly, schools that are socioeconomically less well off tend to be more strongly affected by these problems. And, as Stewart points out, this is exactly the type of student population many teachers want to serve—provided they can afford to.

Stewart says, “The Noyce scholarships allow my students to spend their time learning to teach instead of working or worrying about loans. We have an award-winning Master of Arts in Teaching program, but it is full time, and students don’t get support or have time to work. We should not ask our students to choose teaching over higher-paying professions, and then tell them they need to go into debt to become a teacher.” Arkansas awarded 17 Noyce scholarships—including 7 to future physics teachers—in 2007-2008, its first year of Noyce funding.

The PhysTEC Noyce project will award scholarships to teachers from Ball State University, Cornell University, Seattle Pacific University, the University of Arkansas, the University of North Carolina, and Western Michigan University. Along with Arkansas, the PhysTEC sites Seattle Pacific, University of Arizona, and University of Colorado at Boulder already run Noyce programs that provide scholarships to some of their science teachers, and the project is poised to take advantage of the expertise these sites have gained.

In addition, PhysTEC institutions Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Florida International University, and the University of Minnesota have all received independent Noyce awards during this round of funding, which will also support teachers in multiple science disciplines.

According to Prival, the PhysTEC Noyce is the first Noyce award to focus on a single science discipline, as well as the first given to a professional society. Monica Plisch, APS assistant director of education and project leader, explains that “by pooling applicants from multiple universities, APS and AAPT are able to award these scholarships all to future physics teachers, which are the hardest teachers for schools to hire in any math and science field. We are especially excited that the PhysTEC Noyce project will allow us to place teachers in the underserved communities where they are needed the most.”

For more information about PhysTEC, please visit www.PhysTEC.org.


<a name="Warren Hein"></a>Dear Colleague,

heinI am pleased to be returning to AAPT as of September 1 as your Executive Officer. I want to thank Charlie and Mary Holbrow for their service to AAPT for the past six months. While this has not been an easy transition period for the office staff, Charlie and Mary have earned their respect and admiration for their dedicated service to AAPT. On behalf of the AAPT membership and the Executive Board, I want to thank Charlie and Mary for making my transition to the position of Executive Officer as smooth as possible.

AAPT is a great membership-based organization and I am pleased and proud to be able to serve as the EO for the organization that I have been a member of for almost 40 years, having joined right out of graduate school in 1970 when I took my first faculty position. I would like to thank Lila Adair, Harvey Leff and the other members of the Executive Board for the confidence they have shown in me by appointing me to the EO position.

As many of you know, I served AAPT as Associate Executive Officer from February 1997 through August 2007, when I went to NSF as a Program Officer in the Division of Undergraduate Education. My tenure as Associate Executive Officer, under the able leadership of Bernie Khoury, was a rewarding time in my professional life, and I want to thank him for his mentorship during that period. My past year at NSF has been a valuable and enjoyable experience for me. By serving as Program Officer, I developed a deeper appreciation for the role NSF and other agencies play in supporting our work in physics education.

As a membership-based organization, AAPT depends on member volunteers to serve the organization by serving on one of our current 18 Area Committees or on a number of other Board committees, by providing leadership and outreach for the organization through AAPT’s current 47 sections members, and by providing input, both formal and informal, to the Executive Board and Executive Office. In addition, and maybe more important, hundreds, and maybe even thousands of volunteers have served their colleagues by providing workshops at AAPT national and section meetings and many other activities too numerous to mention. AAPT’s premier journal, The American Journal of Physics, and our highly successful journal, The Physics Teacher, rely on the volunteer efforts of many editorial committees and peer reviewers.

I could go on, but I think it is apparent that I am proud to be a member of AAPT, and I am proud to be able to serve AAPT and its membership as the Executive Officer. I firmly believe that anyone who is a physics educator should be a member of AAPT and should support the organization in achieving its goal of “Enhancing the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching.” We will have a number of membership incentive programs to make it easier for first time members to enjoy the benefits and rewards of being a member of AAPT that I have found to be valuable throughout my entire career. We will rely on you, the current members of AAPT, to make non-member physics educators in our community aware of these opportunities to join our association without significant financial commitment and experience the rewards of AAPT membership.

Finally, I want to thank you, the AAPT membership and my colleagues, for the opportunity to serve you as AAPT Executive Officer. If you have concerns or issues you would like to bring to my attention, or if you have suggestions for ways that AAPT can provide more and better service to physics educators, I encourage you to send those to me at whein@aapt.org.

I am looking forward to a great year!