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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 2023: Joe Cossette

The 2023 National PhysTEC Teacher of the Year is Joe Cossette of Minnetonka High School in Minnetonka, MN. Cossette was nominated by PhysTEC institution University of Minnesota, from which he graduated.

Cossette is an exceptional leader in his department, school, district, and the field of physics teaching at large. In his 9-year career, Cossette has created a hands-on learning environment for physics students. By meeting students where they are, engaging them in deep discussion, and using humor and song in addition to direct instruction, he has been able to make physics an accessible and enjoyable experience.

This dedication to students and excellent education has resulted in impressive growth in Cossette’s classroom: through his efforts, the International Baccalaureate (IB) physics classes grew from one section of 12 students to four sections with 120 students in five years. Cossette emphasizes that the number of students taking physics each year has been maintained, but many more students are taking more challenging physics classes. Students excel in these challenging classes due to the welcoming and positive environment he creates.

Cossette’s impact goes far beyond the students he teaches regularly. He has mentored numerous teachers, both new and experienced, and has taken on leadership roles in his science department as chair and as IB curriculum lead. Furthermore, he is a former Knowles Teaching Fellow. As an early career teacher, he received financial support, mentoring and coaching, and the support of a community of more than 400 teachers committed to improving their own teaching and their students’ learning. Many of the innovative activities Cossette developed during this time are featured on his Passionately Curious Science website.

With over 90,000 unique visitors each year, the lessons Cossette has developed and shared have been used in classrooms around the world and are advancing student learning and appreciation for physics among students he has never met. He also actively shares his knowledge through presentations at professional conferences and co-teaching pre-service teachers at his alma mater.

By all accounts, Cossette’s classroom is an inspiration. His intentional and successful efforts to connect students with physics has encouraged each of them to take on challenging science, and his mentorship and sharing of innovative ideas ensures the legacy of his work will continue to spread and positively influence physics teaching around the world. For these accomplishments and more, we applaud Joe Cossette, PhysTEC’s 2023 National Teacher of the Year!

Joe Cossette head shot
Joe Cossette
2023 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

2023 Local Teachers of the Year

In addition to Cossette'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.

  • Eric Apfel: University of Central Florida, Wekiva High School
  • James 'Jim' Archambault: Arizona State University, Highland High School
  • Bridget Gifford: Adelphi University, Kings Park High School
  • Shawn Kirby: California State University, Long Beach, Palm Springs High School (Palm Spring Unified)
  • Robert Krakehl: Stony Brook University (SUNY), Manhasset High School
  • Sergio Martinez: New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning, Passaic Academy for Science and Engineering
  • Celestina Pangan: Texas A&M University - Commerce, Humble Independent School District

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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