Centennial High School
Circle Pines, MN
Although I took a non-linear path to becoming a physics teacher, I always knew that I wanted to teach and I always knew that I was fascinated by how the world works. Teaching physics provided the natural marriage of those two interests.
After working in a variety of jobs ranging from carpenter to bookstore clerk, to air-cooled Volkswagen mechanic, I eventually enrolled in a physics teacher certification program. When I did my student teaching, I was incredibly fortunate to be placed with Dr. Jon Barber, a master physics teacher that quickly became both my mentor and life-long inspiration. After only a short time of working with Jon, I knew that I had made the right decision and that I was in for a fun ride!
I joined AAPT at the urging of Jon, who is a long-time member. Jon told me that it was an organization of like-minded people who shared my commitment to the profession of teaching. I also felt that it was a professional obligation/privilege to join and participate in the organization that supports and celebrates what I do every day.
One of the most invaluable benefits of belonging to AAPT are the publications. I have received more ideas/suggestions/inspiration/professional development from reading “The Physics Teacher” magazine than any other single source. “Physics Today” also keeps me abreast of current developments and discoveries which I then can communicate to my students. Additionally, the AAPT Meetings provide the opportunity for me to meet fellow physics teachers, learn new pedagogical approaches for the laboratory and classroom, and present different classroom/laboratory ideas that I have found to be successful.
I have been a member of the “Physics Force”, an outreach group from the University of Minnesota, for over 20 years. We present physics shows to over 20,000 individuals each year – many of them elementary school children. I have also been a QuarkNet Lead Teacher since 2002 and organize and lead workshops for teachers each summer. More recently, I have been working with the Teachers-in-Residence (TIR) from a variety of colleges and universities nationwide as the TIR Coordinator for the PhysTEC Project since 2009. For each of the last six summers, I have led intensive modeling instruction workshops for physics teachers at various locations around the country.
I believe that AAPT provides a unique opportunity for individuals to be a member of a larger community. Often, the high school physics department consists of one teacher who sometimes only teaches one or two physics classes. Membership in AAPT allows physics teachers to be part of a nationwide department consisting of thousands of teachers. I have always benefitted from this community and it has made me realize that we (physics teachers) all learn from each other as members of this community. In recent years, it has been my humble pleasure to be able to share with this community some of the things that I have learned.
One of the wonderful things about being a teacher is that every year has a clear beginning and a clear end. I look forward to and dread them both for different reasons. Every year, I get an entirely new group of students that feel the same way. I get to expose them to the wonders of the way the world works, the symmetry of the explanations for different physical phenomena, and the excitement that accompanies new learning. My favorite thing is sharing this learning with my students and watching them struggle and then succeed in making this newly acquired knowledge their own. Additionally, I get to juggle with a purpose and play with amazing equipment!