Aps Careers | Physicist Profile

Thomas Hefner

High School Physics Teacher

Why physics?

Time for reflection

After high school graduation, Thomas took a year off. “My gap year was not filled with travel and self-exploration. I was working a mindless job,” he says. Working that sort of job late into the night gave Thomas plenty of time for reflection, and his thoughts often turned to his high school physics classes. He missed the intellectual demands of physics. “I enjoy a good challenge,” he says. Thomas decided to pursue a degree in physics, earning his bachelor’s degree in applied physics.

“I always had an interest in the sciences and I wanted to have a career that gave something back to society,” Thomas says. Physics education gave him the opportunity to pursue both of those interests.

Using physics

High school physics teacher

Thomas now shares that love of physics and other sciences with the high school students he teaches. He teaches various levels of physics, as well as other science courses. While it’s true that his knowledge of physics helps Thomas teach the material, he says that’s not the only way he uses his background. He points to the logical thinking skills and problem solving he learned in his physics education. Those skills enable him to teach other science courses and engage with students on a fundamental level.

“I have found myself having an easier time teaching other fields and being able to draw links back to the foundations of… science, which is physics.”

Advice for students

Have flexible expectations

“Be very flexible in expectations of what you may be teaching,” says Thomas. Not only has he taught physics, but during his teaching career Thomas has taught physical science, chemistry, astronomy, and environmental science. He advises students to prepare themselves by taking classes in other sciences as much as possible.

Prepare for more than lectures

Thomas encourages students interested in teaching physics to take advantage of opportunities to gain experience in teaching beyond the whiteboard; students need to be well-versed in hands-on labs and demonstrations. Physics majors often have opportunities to be teaching assistants in introductory laboratory courses, this is a good way to gain that experience. Additionally, look for outreach opportunities: these can be great venues for practicing teaching physics principles to a variety of audiences.

Join your Society

If you embrace scientific discovery, truth and integrity, partnership, inclusion, and lifelong curiosity, this is your professional home.