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The Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) announces its inaugural cohort of PhysTEC Fellows: teams from five different institutions were selected from among many applicants to receive recognition and support to build and enhance physics teacher education programs. These Fellows come from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), Texas A&M University-Commerce (A&M-Commerce), University of Houston, Wright University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Each of these institutions not only showcased a strong desire to grow and improve their physics education program, but also provided compelling plans to do so. Since 2001, the PhysTEC project, led by APS and AAPT, has worked to address the severe national shortage of qualified high school physics teachers. In July 2017, the project received $3.375M from the National Science Foundation to build on previous achievements and explore new directions, including the Fellows program.
IPFW is currently the eighth-largest producer of teachers in Indiana and has seen significant growth in its physics department over the past 10 years. In 2015 they won the APS Improving Undergraduate Education Award. Fellows Mark Masters and Matthew Perkins are working to bridge the gap in demand and supply for physics teachers in Indiana. They seek to accomplish this by expanding their outreach and integrating Learning Assistants, experienced undergraduate instructors who assist in large classes, into several physics courses in the program.
Being among the highest producers of STEM teachers in the state of Texas, A&M-Commerce has shown an institutional focus on teacher education. They are also currently on track to becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution (as defined in the U.S. Higher Education Act of 1965). Over the past few years they have overhauled their physics teacher preparation program. Fellows William Newton and Robynne Lock will build on this by establishing mentoring for pre-service teachers and formalizing a track to becoming a certified teacher through their M.S. in Physics.
With 80% of its graduates remaining in the Houston area, the University of Houston seeks to expand its role in addressing the local shortage of physics teachers. They are a UTeach replication site (uteach.utexas.edu) and have established a high-quality certification program for STEM teachers. Fellows Donna Stokes, Paige Evans, Rebecca Forrest, and Reggie Bain will expand recruitment activities within university physics courses and promote teaching as a respected career choice.
Serving the communities of Dayton, Ohio, Wright State University is nationally known for the programs it provides to students with disabilities, veterans, and first-generation college students. Recent changes in the physics department have led to revitalization of their physics teacher education program. Fellows Jason Deibel, Eric Rowley, and Beth Basista are working to modify their program so that all students will be able to obtain their B.A. and licensure within four years. They will also increase marketing of the program and collaboration with other PhysTEC institutions.
Lastly, with the highest retention rate in the nation, Worcester Polytechnic Institute is excited to further its emphasis in research and teaching. Fellows Douglas Petkie, Rudra Kafle, Izabela Stroe, and Shari Weaver will increase awareness by encouraging their faculty to promote the teacher prep program in their freshman physics classes. They will also develop informal and formal teaching experiences, including summer programs, outreach to local schools, and Learning Assistant positions.
PhysTEC supports such activities to help these institutions grow and improve their physics education programs. They will be given access to tools and strategies to improve their programs, help to build institutional support, and the opportunity to learn from the entire PhysTEC Fellow cohort. This program will also demonstrate what other external resources are available for physics teacher preparation and will help them increase their competitiveness for funding opportunities.
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Editor: David Voss
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
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