PhysTEC Project Contacts
California State University Long Beach
California State University, Long Beach
Department of Physics & Astronomy
1250 Bellflower Blvd.
Long Beach CA 90840
Through elementary school, high school and college I never gave any thought to the idea of teaching. My college major and first career was mechanical engineering. I worked for McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach for 8 years as a structural engineer on the C-17 cargo plane for the Air Force. But in my free time I was doing a lot of volunteer activities with teens through church ministries. I began to feel that teaching would be a better use of my skills. I enjoyed engineering and the challenges it provided, but I felt that I was getting more fulfillment out of my time working with teens. Knowing there is always a need for math teachers, I went to back to school to get a math credential. I taught high school math exclusively for 10 years, everything from PreAlgebra to AP Statistics.
One year our school had too many physics sections for our one physics teacher. Knowing my engineering background, the physics teacher came to me to see if I would be interested in teaching a few sections of physics. He sold it to me saying "It is like math….with toys!" I have now been teaching physics for 7 years, the last three years teaching exclusively physics. I now modify his statement; I say it is "toys with math". I love it when my students say my classroom is the room with all the toys! Teaching physics has allowed me to bring together my engineering background and my math teaching experience. The one drawback to teaching physics without being a physics major is that sometimes I don’t feel I have the depth of knowledge to pass onto my students that a physics major would (particularly in modern physics).
I am looking forward to this experience as a TIR at CSU Long Beach in the PhysTEC program. Already it is making me think deeply about what I do in the classroom and why. I believe it will make me a more reflective teacher and, in the long run, a more effective teacher. I do worry about the demands of still teaching full-time while trying to do all that TIR position entails.
I didn’t start out wanting to be a science teacher. I always knew I would do something in science but teaching.... It was never expressed to me how much fun or rewarding it could be. And now that I have been teaching for a while, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! While teaching was not in the cards early on, science was! Like most that love science, I was the kid that did experiments in the kitchen and had the model planes and rockets hanging from my bedroom ceiling. When I went off to college, physics was an easy and natural choice for me to make.
This school year will be the start of my 14th year of teaching in southern California. In the areas of math and science, there isn’t much that I haven’t taught. I started out my career in a K-8 school teaching all levels of math and science to the 6-8th graders. As much as I loved it, I decided that I should move on up and try my hand at high school. I have been teaching physics and AP physics now for 7 years and have had more fun than I thought possible. Along with teaching physics, there is always another class that I am asked to teach which keeps me on my toes (this year is pre-calculus.)
When I can get away from it all, I try to get completely away! The less people and more trees there are the happier I am. I find that sleeping in a tent and hiking as much as I can makes a nice balance to dealing with hundreds of people a day during school.
I am looking forward to my year as a TIR. Having this opportunity while still teaching will certainly have some challenges but I think that being able to mentor and work with teachers while still in the trenches myself will be a very powerful experience for all that are involved.
I currently teach AP physics C, honors physics, and digital film making and editing at Whitney High School in Cerritos, California. I have also taught honors chemistry, biology, introductory physical science, advanced topics in biology, English, and drama. My hands-on approach to learning has students exploring, relating, or applying in the laboratory nearly every day, even during testing. I have developed most of the experiments and built the equipment used in these courses. I have created an approach to testing that emphasizes the scientific application of technology and the synthesis of concepts learned to solve real life problems.
Over the last nine years, I have been recognized as an expert in the use of SMART Board® Interactive White Boards for science instruction. I have accepted invitations to speak on the use of this technology at conferences in Japan, Ireland and throughout the United States.
I was a participant in "Project Catalyst", a three year model program designed to improve earth science instruction funded by the National Science Foundation. From 1994 to 1997, I was a physics mentor in SCAMPI, the Southern California Area Modern Physics Institute, a NSF funded program for which I developed and conducted numerous workshops for high school teachers on a contextual approach to teaching physics.
Throughout my twenty-six year career, I have concentrated on facilitating significant, long-term improvement in elementary school science instruction through an intensive program of peer coaching, model lessons, grade level planning and district wide inservices. My commitment to elementary school teachers led to my involvement with the K-12 Alliance, where I have taught science content and pedagogy during their summer institutes and at district level in-services throughout southern California. I have taught science methods classes at both CSU Long Beach and CSU Fullerton as well as the core classes in the Masters of Arts in Teaching Science program at CSUF.
I find physics beautiful. I believe life is enriched by an appreciation of physics. I endeavor to make the study of physics clear, engaging, and understandable for my students. Teaching is a very rewarding career for me. I hope through my involvement in the PhysTEC Teacher In Residence program at CSULB, that I will be able to encourage university students to continue their study of physics and choose a career teaching physics.