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PhysTEC Teacher of the Year

The PhysTEC Teacher of the Year program recognizes outstanding high school physics educators who demonstrate the impact and value of physics teacher preparation programs. Each year, PhysTEC member institutions submit their recommendations to the selection committee, and one National Teacher of the Year and several local teachers of the year are selected.

PhysTEC National Teacher of the Year 2020: Bouakham Sriri-Perez

The 2020 National Teacher of the Year is Bouakham Sriri-Perez of Duncan Polytechnical High School in Fresno, CA. Sriri-Perez was nominated by PhysTEC institution California State University, Fresno, from which she graduated.

Sriri-Perez considers herself "a Lao refugee who achieved her aspirations as a Physics teacher and educational leader." Her love for learning, strong work ethics, and compassion for others were inspired by her family, which escaped the war-torn country of Laos and lived in Soon Ubon Refugee Camp in Thailand for two years prior to receiving sponsorship to resettle in the United States of America. Her enthusiasm for learning and tenacity to improve the quality of life for her family overshadowed their low socioeconomic background, and the mentors who recognized her potential helped cultivate her journey to becoming an educator. Now, she pays that mentorship forward by promoting Physics education to all her students, hosting student teachers in her classroom, and mentoring new Physics teachers.

Throughout her 20-year career, Sriri-Perez has consistently worked to help students conquer their “phear of physics,” making it instead an accessible and exciting subject. Her efforts allowed her to double the size of the number of physics classes taught at McLane High School. When she started at Duncan, she built the physics program at Duncan Polytechnical High School from ground zero into a subject that is required, appreciated, and well-attended at Duncan.

Sriri-Perez is a champion for physics and physics education, and consistently shows her commitment by gaining funding for her classroom, seeking further training to improve her skills, and recruiting and mentoring student teachers looking to teach physics. Twice in her career, Sriri-Perez successfully wrote proposals that earned her a $10,000 grant for classroom equipment. She has attended numerous summer institutes to hone her teaching, and she has served as a master teacher for the Fresno Teacher Residency Program and mentored a number of student teachers who have since gone on to be successful teachers themselves.

By all accounts, Sriri-Perez’s advocacy efforts and dedication to continuous improvement are outstanding, yet they are eclipsed by the incredible passion and care she has for her students. Her classroom is a haven, and her intentional and successful efforts to recruit and connect with students of all kinds has encouraged each of them to feel comfortable with physics. Indeed, many of her students go on to study physics at her alma mater, Fresno State.

Bouakham Sriri-Perez head shot
Bouakham Sriri-Perez
2020 National Teacher of the Year

National Winners receive:

  • A certificate of achievement
  • A spotlight on our website and in press
  • Speaking engagement at and travel funding to an upcoming national AAPT meeting and the next PhysTEC Conference
  • Special recognition at the PhysTEC Conference
  • $1,000 classroom materials grant

2020 Local Teachers of the Year

In addition to Sriri-Perez's selection as the National Teacher of the Year, we congratulate and thank the following Local Teachers of the Year, who strengthen the physics community by cultivating scientific curiosity in young minds.

  • Melissa Girmscheid: Arizona State University, Centennial High School
  • Margaret Helmes: SUNY Buffalo State College Department of Physics, Williamsville Alternative Instructional Model High School
  • Rob Sheffield: Clemson University, Laurens District High School
  • Janice Trinidad: University of Texas, Austin, Cedars International Next Generation High School
  • Jonathan Welling: Brigham Young University, Wasatch High School

Local Winners receive:

  • A certificate of achievement
  • A spotlight on our website and in press

Teacher of the Year Selection Process

Important Dates

  • Nominations Open: February 17, 2022
  • Applications for National award Open: April 25, 2022
  • Applications for National award Close: June 6, 2022


Teacher of the Year nominees must be:

  • Selected by a PhysTEC member institution,
  • A graduate of the selecting institution
  • An active high school science teacher with at least three years of experience in physics teaching, and
  • Able to demonstrate their significant positive impact on students’ learning and pursuit of physics

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