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John Stewart – University of Arkansas
This edition of the teacher preparation section features an article by Rob Thorne, the director of Cornell’s PhysTEC site. Cornell is one of four new funded PhysTEC sites. The programs of the other three new sites have been presented in previous issues: North Carolina – Chapel Hill in the Summer 2008 newsletter, Florida International University in the Summer 2008 newsletter, and the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in the Fall 2008 Newsletter. All four new funded sites build on the methodologies developed by the initial PhysTEC sites, adapting the techniques to their institutions. The article discusses the implementation of a Learning Assistants program at Cornell and the central role of the Teacher in Residence, core features of the PhysTEC model.
The article also comments on a new and promising source of highly qualified physics teachers, students in terminal physics masters programs or students ending with a terminal physics masters. At the University of Arkansas, we have also found students ending with a terminal masters to be an excellent source of the new high school teachers. Many students enter graduate school with a poor understanding of the demands of physics as a profession. Some of these students find that the best experience they have in graduate school is teaching, particularly teaching in reformed, highly interactive courses. For these students, the transition to teaching as a career is very natural. Long-term tracking at Arkansas shows that the majority of the students who have made this transition are quite happy as teachers. I note that the Noyce Scholarship program has been very helpful in aiding the transition to teaching for some masters students. Joan Prival of the National Science Foundation discussed the most recent Noyce solicitation in the Spring 2009 newsletter.