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By Leah Poffenberger
The Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) addresses a shortage of qualified physics teachers in the United States. Each year, the coalition selects a graduate from a physics teacher preparedness program as Teacher of the Year to recognize outstanding physics educators. This year’s recipient of the national PhysTEC Teacher of the Year Award is Matthew Blackman, a physics and robotics teacher at Ridge High School in New Jersey.
PhysTEC is a joint project of APS and the American Association of Physics Teachers that aims to transform physics departments and support successful models for physics teacher education programs. The Teacher of the Year award, which has one national winner and several local winners, is open to alumni from the 330 PhysTEC institutions to highlight the impact and value of physics teacher preparation programs.
Blackman completed the Five-Year Physics Education Program at Rutgers, a PhysTEC institution, in 2009, earning a joint master’s in education and a teaching certification. Since then, Blackman has inspired both high school physics students and other teachers through innovative educational ideas.
At Ridge High School, Blackman has been instrumental in a dramatic increase in Advanced Placement (AP) Physics enrollment and improved AP test scores. Much of the increase in student enrollment came from Blackman’s efforts to improve participation among female students. Since he began teaching, female student enrollment is now over 50%—up from just 20%.
Blackman has also been working to inspire interest in physics outside of his own classroom: He taught himself to code and has designed five free-to-play educational physics games. Teachers in classrooms across the country and around the world—in nearly 60 countries—have used Blackman’s games to help students explore physics concepts like kinematics, waves, and electrostatics.
At Rutgers, Blackman teaches courses in the graduate education program and also runs a summer workshop for physics teachers, bringing in 20 teachers per year to learn new ways to interest students in physics.
As PhysTEC Teacher of the Year, Blackman will receive a certificate of recognition, funding to attend two professional physics conferences focused on education and teacher preparedness, and a grant for classroom materials of $1,000.
The local PhysTEC Teachers of the Year will receive a certificate of recognition as well as an official acknowledgment to their school administrators and local press. These winners are:
To learn more about PhysTEC and its member institutions, visit phystec.org.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik