APS News

Fred Stein Heads for the Hills

By Ernie Tretkoff

Fred and Claudia Stein
Photo Credit: Ken Cole
Fred and Claudia Stein
Colorado is beckoning Fred Stein, APS Director of Education and Outreach, who will retire with his wife Claudia to their mountain retreat in September. In his five years at APS, Stein has overseen several education and outreach projects, most notably PhysTEC.

Stein has been dedicated to education since he spent time in the Peace Corps teaching PSSC physics to high school teachers in Colombia. After the Peace Corps, Stein received his PhD in chemical physics from Indiana University. He then held a position at a small liberal arts college in Colorado for 17 years before heading to Philadelphia to lead a non-profit organization that helped train science and math teachers. Then Colorado State University hired Stein to start an outreach center, and he worked there for eight years before taking the position as APS Director of Education and Outreach in 1999.

Stein said he has always cared about good teaching, for a variety of reasons. "I felt teaching was a calling," he said. "At the student level, I wanted to teach better than my teachers taught me." Later, as a parent, he wanted to do something to improve the science education his children were getting.

As a professor, Stein found that even with very good lectures, the students still weren't learning. He realized that students needed to be more actively engaged, and since then he has been devoted to hands-on, active, student-centered teaching and learning.

That's the kind of teaching Stein has tried to promote through the PhysTEC program he conceived and developed while at APS. Stein wrote the original proposal for the program, obtained a $5.76 million grant from the National Science Foundation, directed the project, attended leadership meetings and annual conferences, and participated in every site visit to each of the participating institutions."My job responsibilities grew unexpectedly larger with PhysTEC," he said.

Though PhysTEC has been his major project, Stein also oversaw other APS education and outreach projects. He received support from the APS, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and the APS Forum on Education (FEd) for the Physics on the Road Conference and follow-up activities, he helped plan the NSF grant for ComPADRE: Communities for Physics and Astronomy Digital Resources in Education, and he participated in fundraising for APS education projects.

Stein has also served as the APS officer liaison for the committees on education, minorities, the status of women in physics, and careers and professional development, as well as the FEd, where he helped create an APS award in physics education. He also presented numerous papers at AAPT and APS meetings, and at universities and potential PhysTEC sites.

In November of 2002 Stein received his colleagues' recognition by being selected as an APS Fellow.

After Stein retires, he plans to move to Colorado and spend more time with his grandchildren. But he intends to stay involved with education by continuing to work with PhysTEC as a consultant as needed. Stein also wants to become active in the local schools, and possibly run for the school board. "I'm not retiring in the sense of hanging up my shoes and sitting on the porch swing," he said.


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