Welcome to a new section of the APS Forum on Education Newsletter, one devoted to teacher preparation. The purpose of this new section is to showcase and explore ways the physics community can help prepare K-12 science teachers.
Preparing science teachers may seem like a strange endeavor for the physics community, but it is important for our future. Teachers influence the science literacy of the general population, which influences the funding of science. Elementary teachers prepare and influence the students who enter (or don’t enter) high school science classes. High school science teachers prepare and influence the students who enter (or don’t enter) our university physics programs. University physics teachers help prepare and influence future teachers and physicists. Future teachers go back to influence students and the cycle is complete. Thus the future of science both in terms of future scientists and support depends on how well we prepare future science teachers.
Many of us already believe teacher preparation is important. Last year, 259 physics departments endorsed a statement saying they were committed to preparing better science teachers (http://www.aps.org/educ/joint.cfm). Maybe your department signed; maybe it didn’t. Either way, you (as a member of the physics community) have an interest and a part to play in the preparation of science teachers.
Which brings us to the real issue: How does one better prepare science teachers? Preparing teachers is a daunting task. Luckily, you don’t have to figure out how to do it alone. Members of the physics and education communities are already successfully preparing future science teachers. The purpose of this section of the newsletter is to tell their story so that you (and your institution) can take the ideas and the tools that they have developed and implement them at your institution in order to improve (or begin) your teacher preparation effort. Therefore, if you have stories to tell, let me know about them.
What if I told you there are people near you who are interested in preparing science teachers? Wouldn’t that be great news? The fact is these people do exist. They are your local K-12 teachers. Many of them are passionate about teaching and they want to help you prepare teachers. It is possible to partner with local teachers and form what is called a Teacher Advisory Group (TAG). In this issue we will hear from three institutions that have done this: University of Arizona, University of Colorado, and Ball State University. They each have a different story to tell.
Chance Hoellwarth is Assistant Professor of Physics at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo.