PhysTEC Project Contacts
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
Department of Physics
119A Robeson Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Alma Robinson, 2011-2013
"Elbows Up! Elbows up!" My swim coached bellowed at us as our technique started breaking down due to exhaustion. "Oh yeah!" I immediately thought, "That would reduce my arm's moment of inertia!" It was at that moment, surprised by the extent of my inner nerdiness, that I decided to become a physics major. Throughout most of my childhood, I had never taken a particularly special interest in school; it was just where I was supposed to go to learn a little, socialize with my friends, and eat square pizza. Physics changed everything. It was absolutely captivating and I began to see it everywhere! I couldn't ride a bike or play a guitar without physics' ubiquitous head popping out to remind me of the laws of the universe. For many of my classmates, however, physics didn't come so naturally. They often struggled through the material and would ask me for help. As I tried to help them learn, I realized how fun and rewarding teaching physics can be and I've never looked back.
As an undergraduate physics major at Virginia Tech, I was able to share my enthusiasm for physics and teaching through our extraordinary Physics Outreach program. Bringing the joys of science to K-12 students was instrumental in cementing my decision to teach and many of those demos are still central to my arsenal of physics tricks today. After graduation, I was able to continue working with the Physics Outreach program as its director while completing my Master's degree in Education.
After leaving Virginia Tech, I spent the next eight years teaching amazing kids from remarkably diverse backgrounds an array of different physics courses ranging from calculus-based AP Physics to hands-on, conceptual physics at Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA. During my summer "vacations" I kept up my teaching endurance by helping ridiculously motivated and gifted students learn a year of high school physics in an intensive three-week program. In addition to working with students, I've also had the wonderful opportunity to mentor both new and pre-service teachers.
What I didn't expect when I first started my career, however, was how much my students would teach me about teaching, learning, and life. As the first Physics Teacher In Residence at Virginia Tech, I hope to utilize my experiences as a student at Virginia Tech and leverage the lessons that I've learned as a teacher to help create a solid and sustainable PhysTEC program. I'm excited for the opportunity to work with the VT Physics and Education departments and the wider community of physics teachers to prepare our pre-service teachers for their future classrooms.