ISAAPT Outstanding High School
Physics Teacher Nominations
2006-2007

The following information pertains to the candidates for the ISAAPT Outstanding High School Physics Teacher of the Year Award. We received two forms for each candidate: (1) Nomination and (2) Candidate Information.  Please read this document and e-mail your top three choices to Cliff Parker (cparker@charter.net) by February 23, 2007.  Please number your choices.

 1.  Charles Adamovic, Lyons Township High School, LaGrange
 2.  Anne Grimm, Annawan High School, Annawan
 3.  Sandy Gooder, Tricity High School, Buffalo
 4.  David Saiz, Elgin High School, Elgin
 5.  William Sindewald, Batavia High School, Batavia
 6.  Kunal Pujara, Highland Park High School, Highland Park
 7.  Jay Smith, DeKalb High School, DeKalb
 8.  Matt Zimolzak, William Fremd High School, Palatine
 9.  Nicholas Drozdoff, New Trier High School, Glencoe

Here are the seven questions that were asked of each candidate.

1. Briefly state your teaching philosophy
2. In what way are you an outstanding physics teacher?
3. Tell us about the impact your teaching has had on your students.
4. What have you done for professional development during the past 5 years?
5. How have you assisted other teachers (or teacher candidates) in their professional development?
6. How have you incorporated state and national science teaching standards in your teaching?
7. Tell us something about your teaching innovations.


1.  Charles Adamovic, Lyons Township High School, LaGrange

Nomination

Charles Adamovic (28 years)
100 S. Brainard
Lagrange, IL 60525
708-579-6411
cadamovic@lths.net

Nomination letter:

I am the Math/Science Division Chair at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, IL. For the past 13 years I have had the pleasure of working with and observing Charlie Adamovic as both a Physics teacher and an Assistant Division Chair. Charlie was one of the early teachers in our Physics Accel program - a challenging physics course for juniors and seniors who have an Algebra II background. He also was one of the developers of our Physics Prep program and led the movement to have this course be offered to students in grades 9 -12. This program is a conceptual physics course. Thus, we have over 85% of our student body graduating with a physics course on their transcripts. This year alone, we have 860 of our 3800 students enrolled in either Physics Prep or Physics Accel. In addition, we have 43 students enrolled in AP Physics. Charlie models great teaching in his classes and as Assistant Division Chair helps develop other teachers.

Nominated by:

Lilane Koehn Mace, Math/Science Division Chair
lkoehn@lths.net

Candidate Information

Charles M. Adamovic (29 years)
10552 Rachel Lane
Orland Park, IL 60467
708-478-1395
cadamovic@LTHS.net

Question 1:

Sometimes when I am asked what I teach I answer: "students". To an extent that sums up my teaching philosophy. I believe that a teacher must first and foremost meet the needs of the students. With that in mind, I try to teach physics so that every student is able to benefit. I endeavor to help them see how physics is relevant to their lives. Furthermore, I believe that every student can benefit from a physics course. So, all students should take physics.

In order to meet the needs of students I think that good teaching demands teamwork and balance. I have been fortunate during most of my career to teach in a school with other physics teachers. We have worked closely together to develop teaching materials and make curricular decisions. Our physics program is better for this collaborative effort.

Balance must be maintained in many areas: 1. Balance between providing students with challenging course material without overwhelming them.  2. Balance between developing conceptual understanding and problem solving skills.  3. Balance between problem solving methods including the appropriate used of technology.  4. Balance between teaching the physics content and exploring the impact physics has had on society.  5. Balance between maintaining standards and being sensitive to individual student needs.  6. Balance within a grading system that motivates the best students while giving all students the opportunity to be successful.  7. Balance between hard work and fun.  8. Balance between the needs of students who will go on to be scientists and engineers with the needs of students who will follow other paths.

Question 2:

I think am I am an outstanding teacher because I relate well to students, know my subject well, work diligently to help students, continue to upgrade my skills and knowledge, reflect on my teaching and student learning, and view teaching as much more than just what happens in the classroom. When I interact with students I think my sense of humor and the fact that I enjoy teaching is evident. Students respond positively to my personality and teaching style.

When I started at LT in 1981 there was one other physics teacher and a total of ten sections of physics. Even though the school enrollment declined throughout the 80's and 90's, before rebounding, physics enrollments continually increased. Currently we have 43 sections. Over 85% of LT students graduate with a physics credit on their transcripts, even though we have only a two year science requirement. I mentioned that part of my philosophy is that all students should take physics and that teamwork is very important. So, as soon as I got to LT my goal was to increase physics enrollment.

Accomplishing the goal required teamwork. I worked with other teachers, counselors, and administrators to get the message out. All students are welcome in physics and all students will benefit from physics. As enrolments grew and more teachers were hired, I worked with them to maintain consistency and to send out the same message. Now it's part of the culture. Essentially everyone is on board with all students taking physics, as well as biology and chemistry. Counselors know what physics classes are like and trust the teachers, so they are willing to counsel students to take physics. The reputation of physics at LT within the community is good, so parents are happy to have their daughters and sons take the course. As I'm sure you can tell, I am very proud of the physics program at LT. Also, we have continually updated the physics classes. We have introduced new technology and always think about how we can make the program better. Continually making changes and improvements is part of the fun of teaching.

Question 3:

I'll try to illustrate my impact on students using the words of students and parents. All of the following comments were unsolicited. A few years ago a student wrote the following at the end of the school year: Dear Mr. Adamovic, Thanks for a great year! Before this year started, I was so nervous about starting physics - the equations and terms really intimidated me- but, after one week your class and your refreshingly laid back attitude became a daily oasis for me, where I learned much more than I ever thought possible. Thanks for proving to me that I could actually excel at something that was a huge challenge for me. Thanks also your great understanding. My life this year was extremely stressful but your kindness in accepting an occasional late assignment made it much easier to deal with. All your students are so lucky to have you as a teacher.

Like many high schools, Lyons Township High School allows parents to publish letters to graduating seniors in the school newspaper. In one such letter the parents congratulated their son on his achievements and went on to write "thanks to Mr. Adamovic you are now an intellectual". A couple of months ago a student wrote the following thank-you note. Dear Mr. Adamovic, Thank you so much for teaching Physics Accel over the summer. It helped me so much. I feel that even though the class was condensed I was able to learn a lot. You're a great teacher! Thank you so much!

Question 4:

In August 2004 I started a PhD program in curriculum and instruction at UIC. I have been taking one course a semester and have completed 26 credit hours including the 16 hours of core requirements for the program. The core requirements are designed to provide the background needed to begin research in education. As a result of these classes I have a much better understanding of quantitative and qualitative research in education.

This past summer I took an astronomy class through Governors State University, History of Space Exploration. This was a one credit hour class which covered the US and USSR space programs. I have been able to use information from this class the enhance my teaching. For example, one problem in our text, dealing with conservation of momentum, mentioned a Russian cosmonaut named Valentina. I shared with the students that Valentina was not a name made up by the author but was a reference to Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.

In addition to course work I have spent a considerable amount of time studying on my own. A large number of Web sites, many with applets, have become available on the Internet over the past few years. I have investigated many of these sites. Some are very worthwhile and fit well with my style of teaching. I have used these sites in a variety of ways. I have used some Web sites during lectures, some Web sites have been used as lab activities and others have been used as the basis for independent study extra credit assignments.

Question 5:

For the past few years I have taken the lead in placing student teachers and observers. Any requests for placement in math or science are sent to me. I have made a point of trying to grant as many requests as possible. I have been able to match almost all requests for observations with a willing teacher. I have been able to find a cooperating teacher for most student teacher candidates who meet our criteria. I served as cooperating teacher for one student teacher a few years ago and have had many observers in my classroom. I believe that it is a professional responsibility to help teachers-in-training as much as possible. As I have mentioned in responses to other questions, I am a real believer in teamwork. By working closely with other teacher I have helped them grow professionally and they have helped me. Over the years I have assisted over a dozen other physics teachers. I have also served as a science fair judge many times. For about 15 years I have either judged or arranged for other teachers to judge the science fair at one of the local junior high schools.

Question 6:

I have read the national and state standards several times. To me, the standards say teach good solid courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space science. In addition to covering scientific concepts it is important to cover the process of science as well. Science should be taught as a way of learning and knowing which is ever changing. Labs are an integral aspect of science courses. Furthermore, the interaction between science and society must be explored. Teaching good science, content and process, as well as exploring the interaction between science and society has always been my approach to teaching Physics. Reading the standards reinforces my belief in the way I teach. The standards, in my opinion, should be viewed holistically. They present a picture of how science should be taught, not a day to day guide. Spending a great deal of time and effort listing which standard is addressed on which day is not productive. One is better off using one's energy to develop new learning materials and spending time with students, which is what we do.

Question 7:

I have mentioned teamwork before but will mention it again because it is the area of which I am most proud. Establishing a culture of teamwork has been difficult at times but has paid many dividends. The culture is so well established at this point that many of my colleagues do not even remember or have never experience the isolation that some teachers feel. Many observers and student teachers as well as new teachers are surprised by the level of cooperation we have in physics at LT. We work with each other's students before and after school and make all curricular decisions together. We are able to have at least one physics teacher available to help students every morning before school and most afternoons after school as well.

At LT we teach a traditional math based course called Physics Accelerated and a conceptual course called Physics Prep. Since the Physics Prep course requires a minimum of mathematics, it seemed to me that we could teach this course to freshman and sophomores as well as juniors and seniors. Of course, I was influenced by the "Physics First" movement championed by Leon Lederman. It took some work but we were able to change our curriculum guides and have now been teaching physics to freshman and sophomores for over 18 years. Currently, over 200 freshman and sophomores take Physics Prep annually, as do about 230 juniors and seniors. (About 270 students take the Physics Accelerated course annually.)

One idea that I had that has worked out pretty well is what we call the "Elevator Project". One of the problems in our text has a woman standing in an elevator on a bathroom scale. The problem asked for one to find the acceleration of the elevator from the scale reading. I thought: "why not have the students actually do this and videotape the scale during the elevator ride?" That was several years ago. Since that time hundreds of students have done the "Elevator Project". The project has changed over time. Now the students not only determine the acceleration, starting and stopping, but also produce a velocity/time graph of the ride. They use the velocity/time graph to determine the height of the ride. They also determine the height of the building from the outside using trig. They then compare the two height measurements. I should mention that prior to 9/11/01 we just told the students to go downtown, go into a tall building, and nicely asked if they could use the elevator for a physics project. The students were seldom turned away. After 9/11/01, we have made special arrangements to use a particular building.

As I have mentioned in other responses, I have recently been utilizing a number of Web sites and applets in my teaching. The most recent was an extra credit project on cycloids where students visited a couple of Web sites on their own and completed a project.


2.  Anne Grimm, Annawan High School, Annawan

Nomination

Anne Grimm (13 years)
28442 N 1400 Ave
Sheffield, IL 61361
309-935-6675
agrimm@bhsroe.k12.il.us

Anne Grimm is an outstanding physics teacher in every way. A dedicated and caring educator, she has developed a comprehensive note-taking system for all her classes. Anne continually seeks outside opportunities, such as the state Bridge Building Competition, the Regatta, and a local Airplane Flying Event, designed to push and direct her students to a higher level of learning. Anne has also developed a communication system with her parents to keep them up on class happenings and student's progress. Her professionalism and commitment to excellence have truly made a difference in our school. She has also completed the requirements set out to become a Master Teacher in Illinois, bringing additional credit upon herself and our district.

Nominated by:

Linda Rakestraw
l_rakestraw34@hotmail.com

Candidate Information

Anne Grimm (13 years)
28442 N 1400 Ave
Sheffield, IL 61361
309-935-6781
agrimm@bhsroe.k12.il.us

Question 1:
I believe that all children are capable of learning, but they may not all learn in the same way. So, a teacher must be prepared to instruct in many different ways. After teaching for several years I've come to learn that presenting material is not necessarily teaching. Real teaching results in learning. And real learning will probably not take place after a single presentation. I also believe that teaching must be done with enthusiasm for one's subject. A teacher is a role model for her students and therefore must constantly be on guard for what she is "teaching" when she doesn't realize she's teaching. I also believe that a lot of the best teaching happens when the student is involved physically with the lesson. So I value hands-on activities as important teaching tools. I also believe that organized student's have a better chance of academic success than unorganized students.

Question 2:
My strengths as a teacher include: 1) I genuinely care about my students and their learning, 2) I enjoy teaching physics, 3) I include hands-on activities to keep my students interested and to make the concepts we discuss more tangible, 3) I like to use discovery rather than telling as an avenue to understanding. I still do a lot of telling, but when the students discover a relationship it tends to stay with them. 4) Some of my hands-on activities are conducted annually and looked forward to by upcoming students. Some of my larger activities include building model airplanes to fly in the gym, building cardboard boats large enough for students to ride in and compete in a race on a nearby canal, and bridge building and breaking at Bradley University.

Question 3:
I have had students return from college to tell me they felt they were well prepared for their science classes. I also impact my students' level of organization because I give them notebooks with guided notes, activities, study guides and practice tests for an entire semester. This keeps them organized and keeps all materials together for final exam preparation. Students will often recall previous activities that we have done, so I know that I am impacting their learning. We typically have above state average ACT and PSAE scores from our students in science.

Question 4:
This past year I successfully completed and passed the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. I now hold a National Board Certificate in Adolescence and Young Adulthood Science. Prior to that I attended various workshops including: Teaching reading and writing strategies, Differentiated Activities for the classroom, Using digital microscopy in the classroom, and safety in the high school laboratory.

Question 5:
During my national board certification process, I was a member of a cohort of 8 people working on national certification. We met regularly and discussed the process and discussed our teaching. Out of our group of 8, 5 passed. I know the discussions helped me in my process and the fact that 5 others passed shows they also benefited from our conversations. Last year I was also a mentor to a new teacher to our district. This involved acclimating her to our procedures and observing her teaching and discussing her teaching as well as serving as a resource to her throughout the year.

Question 6:
I have incorporated the science content of the standards in my curriculum. I cover all areas mentioned in the standards. We design and build models and we use the scientific method in our activities. As a district this past fall we used the standards to assess weaknesses in our curriculum.

Question 7:
As mentioned in question #2, I have incorporated several activities the students look forward to doing. My other innovation is the student notebook that I provide for each of my students in each of the different classes I teach. I mentioned these in question #3. My first year teaching here I saw papers stuffed everywhere, papers lost, papers wadded up and I knew they needed help with what an organized student looks like. So I prepared guided notes, activities, practice tests and any other paper I handed out with 3 holes punched in them so they can keep them neat, clean, and in one place. This has greatly reduced lost papers. They know that all they need to do is grab their 3-ring binder and textbook and they will have all they need. It has helped them greatly.

I also teach study techniques to my students. We use flashcards, study guides, concept maps and review to help prepare for tests. Also a new technique I have been using that has been for very successful for some students is a study timetable. This is a guide as to exactly what and how to study 5-6 days before a test. It has activities like: practice the first 8 terms on the study guide tonight, have your parents read the definition and you say the term, then have them give you the term and you say the definition. The next night it might say do your flashcards two times. Make a pile of the ones you don't know. Do just the ones you don't know 3 times each. This has been helpful to those students who are willing to study, but just don't know where to start.


3.  Sandy Gooder, Tricity High School, Buffalo (Note: This was written a year ago.)

Nomination

Sandy Gooder (8 years)
2328 Cherry Hills Apt. D
Springfield, IL 62704
217-726-8724

Ms. Gooder was a tenured teacher when I arrived as her principal five years ago. Since then she has shown a huge interest in our students academic improvement. She is constantly volunteering for positions of sponsorship that are difficult to fill. Her hours at school out number her hours at home. Upon asking her to continue her education for qualification in Physics, she did not hesitate. She continues to set good examples in her class as well as out.

Nominated by:

Randy Dwyer, High School Principal
rdwyer@tc.sangamon.k12.il.us

Candidate Information

Sandy Gooder (9 years)
324 West Charles
Buffalo, IL 62515
217-364-4530
sgooder@tc.sangamon.k12.il.us

Question 1:

My teaching philosophy is to take children and help them mature academically and socially. I also want each student to learn and gain life skills. I help each child mature academically by challenging them in the classroom. I expect the students to work up to their potential. This potential may be different for each child. I also help the students mature academically by preparing them for future classes at Tri-City High School or in the college of their choice. I try to provide the students with real world science applications. I want my students to experience science in a manner that lets them see that science is present in the world around them.

I help each child mature socially be providing opportunities for group interaction and laboratory work. When students are working in a group, they assume various roles. The students are constantly changing their roles. The students learn the value of collaboration. I help each child learn to defend his or her work and opinion.

I help the students gain life skills by teaching them to be independent learners. Since the class is often taught at a time when I have another class, the students learn to be independent. I try and teach them time management by giving them a deadline in which their work needs to be completed. Thus learning the need for organization.

Question 2:

I feel that I am an outstanding physics teacher for the following reasons. Since students have multiple intelligences, I use a variety of teaching methods. Students are presented information through lecture, lab, and critical thinking problems. Students will often be given the chance to work problems in a group and to diagram their problem using a white board. Students are given the chance to apply what they have learned in solving real world problems in a creative and fun way. Some of the projects that they have completed include making a working model of a roller coaster and a mobile projectile launcher.

Students are exposed to a variety of technological resources. Student use the digital camera and produce an I-movie. We also use probes that are linked to the computer for some labs.

I also feel that I am an outstanding teacher because I teach lessons beyond the classroom. I take advantage of teachable moments that may not be directly related to physics. Students need to learn about life, which does not revolve solely around physics. I discuss college issues with juniors and seniors. Students leave my room having learned how to manage their time and having experienced personal growth.

I feel that being flexible and supportive of my colleagues also makes me a good physics teacher. I teach multiple classes at the same time. I believe that I am not the one who knows everything. I utilize the technology resources available at our school.

Question 3:

My teaching has had an impact on my students. I believe that I have given my students the love and enjoyment of science. I have done this by letting them see the real world applications for science through the problems we work and the various projects assigned during the year. I have also allowed them the ability to apply various strategies to a real world problem.

I have also impacted students by creating life long, independent learners. By leading students to the answer and not giving it to them, I have taught them the value of independent learning. They have learned team building through group projects, time management through deadlines, and organization through developing a portfolio.

I have taught my students about life choices and experiences. My students have dealt with adversity. They have struggled with a difficult topic and learned how to overcome and persevere. They have learned how to work in a cooperative group and how to select team members. Students often find that working with their best friend may not always be the best idea. I have also impacted students to become risk takers. No idea is ever discounted in my classroom. Students are encouraged to try various ideas when they are working on a project. The students also learn how to rebound when an idea does not live up to their expectations.

Question 4:

During the last five years I done many things to advance professionally. I have taken various classes, including one on problem based learning. I will be implementing the ideas learned this year. I have taken physics classes at ISU to receive my Physics endorsement. Other classes that I have taken include one on portfolios and a chemistry class from Northern Iowa. I have also attended various workshops including a rural physics teacher workshop that was offered this past summer. I have also attended the Illinois Science Teacher and National Association of Science Teacher conventions. I have attended the Illinois Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers workshops in the fall and spring .

I also participate in professional development at Tri-City High School. I am a member of the curriculum committee, which provides input into scheduling and policy changes. I am also a member of the internal review team.

Question 5:

I have assisted other teachers in their professional development. During the last two years I have been a mentor teacher to the two new science teachers that have come to Tri-City. I have been a sounding board when these teachers have had questions or concerns. I have provided suggestions on various topics.

I have contributed to the professional development of other teachers by presenting at various workshops and meetings. I have presented with other teachers at the Connections conference on how to implement a career portfolio. I have presented a summary of our internal review to other teachers at Tri-City in a building meeting, in addition to serving on the internal review team. Since I am the science chairperson, I presented the results of our PSAE to the other members of my department.

Question 6:

I have incorporated state standards into my teaching in a variety of ways. The state standards help to determine my choice of topics to emphasize in my physics class. The state standards have also determined the way that I have written the curriculum maps and local assessments for my classes. While not in my physics class, I have incorporated the state standards by doing a PSAE review. I have modified the curriculum as needed to concentrate on those areas that the students have shown a weakness in on the PSAE.

I have incorporated the national standards by adding more inquiry-based lessons. I have converted labs from a traditional type of lab to an inquiry-based lab. I have also done inquiry through the real world projects that are assigned. Providing differentiated instruction to the students also incorporates the national standards.

Question 7:

I am constantly trying to come up with better ways of teaching, which has led to some teaching innovations. Because we follow an eight-block schedule, I have allowed the students to teach each other when it comes to problems. Each student will work a problem on the white board. They then present that problem to the class. If the problem is wrong, the class helps the student to work the problem correctly.

The eight-block and having multiple classes at the same time has also led to some innovative time management strategies. The students have been shown how to manage their time in different ways. I am able to spend only a certain amount of time with them each class period, which we have learned how to make the most of.

Other innovations involve the various assigned projects. Students design a working scale model of a roller coaster. The students must also make a brochure about their roller coaster and make a presentation in a business setting. I also have the students design a mobile projectile launcher. Their launcher must maintain a minimum speed and be able to launch a projectile for a set distance. The launchers must also have CDs used as critical, working components. The third major project that is assigned is a Rube Goldberg machine that has to perform a classroom task. Students are given a choice of tasks for their machine to perform. Students write a paper describing the physics principles used in the particular project.


4. David Saiz, Elgin High School, Elgin

Nomination

David Saiz (26 years)
1200 Maroon Drive
Elgin, IL 60120
847-888-5100 x 8161
davidsaiz@u-46.org

Nomination letter:

When I read the above descriptors regarding exceptional performance and enthusiastic student response, there is but one science teacher that comes to mind, physics or otherwise. His name is Dave Saiz, and I have had the pleasure of working with him for the past 13 years, seven as his immediate supervisor. He works hard to not only prepare his students and prepare FOR his students, he also is innovative, rising to the challenge of inspiring typical high school students, up through Gifted Academy and AP students that have gone on to attend the likes of Yale and other prestigious universities. He is their favorite, establishing many bonds both intellectually and respectfully.

Making physics understandable is certainly not an easy task, but Dave Saiz of Elgin High School has a success rate second to none. Fairly quiet on the surface, his wit and candor quickly show the students that he is there for them, and his love of the subject is often easily conveyed and is contagious. Most students never feel that Physics is easy, but Dave Saiz comes close to helping students feel that it is through his manner, style, and communication. He is both motivational and inspirational. It is without hesitation that I can recommend Dave Saiz to you, and I proudly nominate him for this fine award.

Nominated by:

Kel Kissamis
kellykissamis@u-46.org

Candidate Information

David Saiz (25 years)
1200 Maroon Drive
Elgin, IL 60120
847-888-5100 x8161
DavidSaiz@u-46.org

Question 1:

My teaching philosophy is based on three primary ideas; (1) Students benefit the most from teachers who have high expectations of them. (2) Students require a structured classroom setting where they know what is expected of them. (3) A teacher should encourage their students to excellence.

Question 2:

I enjoy the opportunity to share my wonder of the physical world with my students. My students are always enthusiastic when I am able to share a thought provoking experiment or demonstration with them. Probably the best thing I do for my students, though, is simply to demand excellence.

Question 3:

Not long ago, I had a student in my Honors Physics class who, though she worked hard, struggled on tests. I worked with this student out of class over many months and she was eventually able to earn the grade she wanted. The following year, I was surprised to see that she had enrolled in my AP Physics C class. Again, physics was a struggle, but through hard work she persevered in the class. Near the end of the year she asked me if I would write her a college recommendation. She handed me the recommendation form, (I gulped when I saw the institution she wanted to attend), and promised to do my best. About a month later she handed me her letter of acceptance to the University of Chicago. I have had a number of students pursue careers in physics, I have been in Who's Who in American Education numerous times, but nothing touches me more than the student who was a long shot but made it.

Question 4:

I have participated in the AP Physics seminars that are offered throughout the area.

Question 5:

I believe that my best contribution to my colleagues has simply been my encouragement for them and praise for the work they do. The high school I teach in has many huge challenges; the fact that we even have an AP program is an incredible testament to the wonderful work my colleagues do to prepare students while they are still freshman and sophomores.

Question 6:

Students seem to learn best when they are actively engaged in an activity. As I mentioned previously, I do enjoy doing demonstrations where the students are able to participate with me as we perform an activity.

Question 7:

I find myself being pleasantly surprised by what my students can achieve when they are challenged. Consequently, I search out activities which are engaging, but also difficult. We build bridges out of pasta every year and then test them to destruction. The bridge project is a nice way to bring vectors, forces, and torques together. Each of the AP students build a line tracking robot every year, with their grade dependent upon its ability to follow a maze which I create for them. This past year, we set up a model train layout which when inclined, makes for a fun way to study friction.


5. William Sindewald, Batavia High School, Batavia

Nomination

Bill Sindewald (17 years)
Batavia High School
1200 West Wilson Street
Batavia, IL 60510
630-879-4600, ext. 5857
william.sindewald@bps101.net

Nomination letter:

It is my pleasure to recommend Bill Sindewald for the Illinois Outstanding High School Physics Teacher Award. Bill has taught Physics at Batavia High School for 17 years, and thousands of students have benefited greatly from his student centered approach to science education. As the principal at Batavia High School, I see so many great reasons that make Bill a worthy recipient for this award.

Within the classroom and laboratory, Bill has the ability to engage students in discovering how physics impacts nearly everything that they do. Academically, Bill works not only to prepare students for college, but also to instill a love and appreciation of physics. Involving students in activities such as IIT's Bridge Building Contest and Physics Day at Great America highlight his view that physics is not simply something confined to a science laboratory. Back at school, Bill has been instrumental in developing a new Honors Physics program that is being implemented this year.

Much of Bill's success as a physics teacher stems from his innate ability to motivate and relate to high school students. His enthusiasm and sense of humor create a student audience eager to jump in to the world of physics and "get their feet wet". In past years, Bill has been chosen by the student body to give the faculty address at our graduation ceremony, a testament to the rapport that he is able to build with his students. In addition, he has received the Award of Excellence from the Illinois Math and Science Academy, an honor for which he was nominated by a former student. Although there are many great physics teachers in Illinois, Bill Sindewald stands out and exemplifies what outstanding science teaching should be, and I urge you to strongly consider Bill Sindewald for this award.

Nominated by:

Doug Drexler
doug.drexler@bps101.net

Candidate Information

William J. Sindewald (16 years)
2 s 101 Waltham Ct.
Warrenville, Illinois 60555
630-393-4363
sindewald@yahoo.com

Question 1:

The vast majority of my students go to college. I believe that my physics course should prepare them for a college physics class. I believe in hands on learning. So, we do experiments for almost every formula they encounter. I believe in adjusting my methods to match my student's needs when possible. I believe in having them work hard and practice what they are supposed to learn. I believe it's important that they have fun at times. I think the most important ingredient to student learning is a positive attitude, so I try to maintain that as much as possible.

Question 2:

I think I am pretty good at explaining physics concepts using real life experiences of the students. I'm pretty good at rephrasing or finding alternate explanations when the first one falls flat. I am bent on making physics easy and up front and obvious to everyone. I am pretty good at coming up with lab activities and demonstrations.

Question 3:

No one can hope to have a huge impact on all of their students. I do the best I can to keep the game simple. That is to get them ready for college physics. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from former students. I have been told many times that they breezed through their college physics course while their classmates struggled.

Question 4:

The past five years have been extremely bust for me as a father. Therefore, I have not taken classes in that time. I have participated in whatever professional development the district had during the school day, but I am a devoted father and my kids come first. Once they are grown, I can go back to school myself.

Question 5:

We have had a number of science teachers come and go at Batavia High School in the past 16 years. I try to be as helpful to them as I can. I am the only physics (or physical science) teacher in the building, so people tend to ask me questions a lot when they aren't sure about something.

Question 6:

Yes. However, my primary focus is teaching a college prep course. I have checked the standards and I am in alignment as far as time allows. I will choose content in favor of college over state standards every time and I make no apology to anyone for that philosophy.

Question 7:

I doubt that anything I do is an innovation other than some of the unique ways I have devised to make certain aspects of physics content more understandable to high school students. My formula sheet must be pretty good, too, because my former students come back to get a fresh copy. One was attending the Naval Academy. The rest of the guys saw it and wanted a copy, too. How about them apples!  My formula sheet went to Annapolis one year!


6. Kunal Pujara, Highland Park High School, Highland Park (Note: This was written a year ago.)

Nomination

Kunal Pujara (11 years)
433 Vine Ave
Highland Park, IL 60035
765-224-2276
kpujara@dist113.org

Nomination letter:

Kunal Pujara is an outstanding educator who truly deserves to have his abilities and efforts recognized in a formal way. Kunal is a very dedicated and hard-working professional. Each glimpse into Kunal's classroom provides me with another piece of evidence for why I would want my son or daughter to be his student. Students are given multiple examples along with visual and tactile demonstrations to assist students in their understanding. Problem solving and critical thinking are key components within his curriculum. Kunal's primary focus is to facilitate learning. He utilizes numerous teaching strategies and incorporates the use of technology in order to help students realize a deep understanding of each concept. Kunal is constantly offering assistance to teachers both within the department and building wide. He is extremely well-respected not only for his content knowledge but also for his passion for teaching and learning. Newer staff members and veterans alike utilize Kunal as a resource.

Most recently, he has brought technology into a math classroom and collaborated with a math teacher to demonstrate oscillating motion. He used a logger pro, microphone, laptop computer, tuning fork, and strobe light as some of his "props" for the lesson. Kunal was very aware of being sure to present the information in a way that was not jargon-laden so that all of the students could understand what was happening. Once the concept was explained in a way that they could understand he began inserting terminology along with each explanation. By the end of the period, students were beginning to ask what a Hertz was and what else they would learn about in a physics class. Technology is a key component to Kunal's teaching.

He has presented how technology is used within his classroom to our Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and the District 113 School Board. During the Dedication Ceremonies of our new science wing, Kunal had set up stations for guest to play with as they toured our facilities. Kunal is a tremendous representative for physics instructors, our science department, and educators in general. His content knowledge, use of effective pedagogy, collaborative efforts, and constant desire to improve his teaching is all focused on one outcome - student learning. I offer my recommendation for Kunal for the Illinois Outstanding High School Physics Teacher Award without hesitation. He richly deserves this honor.

Nominated by:

Julie Felichio, Science Department Chairperson
jfelichio@dist113.org

Candidate Information

Kunal Pujara (12 years)
1433 Noyes Street
Highland Park, IL 60201
847-0475-1760
kpujara@dist113.org

Question 1:

The best way to demonstrate understanding is to teach someone else. On a daily basis in my AP Physics class, students present their homework solutions to the class. In AP Physics, every student demonstrates their understanding by leading the class in discussion at least 4 times during the quarter. My role as the "teacher" is to facilitate the discussion and to offer alternative solutions in problem solving. In my honors freshman physics class, 98% of the students have presented problems to their peers by the end of this semester. My students meet the goal of teaching their peers, which requires the student teachers to explain their thought process during problem solving.

I believe that physical concepts must be experienced and that scientific process is important. When conducting experiments, my students do not use "fill-in-the-blank" lab reports. The process of organizing, synthesizing, and analyzing the experiment is an essential component in understanding physics. If students have a strong foundation in the process of learning, then they can easily transfer this process to learn other content independently. Our honors freshman students have a deep understanding of basic mechanics principles because we spend most of the year on mechanics. At our school, we offer the AP Physics C course because we can study a few topics in real depth.

Question 2:

I am dedicated to my own learning and to my students' learning. I have incorporated technology in most aspects of my teaching. On the first day of class, I videotape all of my students as they introduce themselves to each other, and I study the tape that night so that I know all of their names the next day. I communicate with students and parents using e-mail and attached assignments and detailed weekly progress grade reports. Many of the labs that we conduct utilize LabPro technology with graphing calculators and computers to analyze the data. In my ongoing technology project, I am recording my honors freshman physics class every day to DVD and VHS formats. Over the past year and a half, this daily videotaping has benefited my students in many ways. When a student is absent, they can immediately obtain copies of content that they missed. If a student has special needs, they can review the videotape and take notes at their own pace. If a student wants to review material, they can borrow a tape or DVD to review a class or several classes. When I plan absences in my physics classes, I have often videotaped myself giving a lecture using demonstrations or conducting problem solving, so that the students will not needing to rely on a substitute who has no background in physics. Every outstanding teacher is dedicated to growth, and I am passionate about my own growth in the area of technology.

Question 3:

I'm proud of the impact that my teaching has had on my students. I enjoy when students come back to visit me from college and tell me how my physics class helped them. When students go home and tell their parents about a classroom demonstration or discussion and the parents call me about it, I know that my students are excited about learning. I try to get the students excited and to think about physics in the world around them. I love the stories that students tell me when they try to replicate some of the demonstrations in class. After riding on a giant hovercraft in my classroom, one of my freshman physics students was so excited that he successfully built his own hovercraft that weekend. When students come back to me years later and recall some physics joke that I told, I know that physics has left an imprint in their mind. I want my students to enjoy and be challenged by my physics class.  During my daily videotaping last year, my AP physics students and I discovered a new way to represent mechanical waves.  In the January, 2006 issue of The Physics Teacher, I published an article called "Video Feedback Demonstration of Mechanical Waves."   At the end of the article, I included an acknowledgement to my 2004-2005 AP physics students for their curiosity while videotaping.  These AP students were proud of our discovery and of their contribution to the physics teaching community.

Question 4:

In the past five years, I have continued my personal learning and growth through attending conferences, and participating in workshops.  I have attended conferences for Teachers Teaching with Technology and AP Physics sessions at AP conferences (1998, 2000).  As a member of Physics Northwest since 1996, I try to attend as many meetings as my personal schedule will allow.  In the fall of 2000, I hosted a session of Physics Northwest at Highland Park High School.   On February 8th, of 2005, I hosted another session of Physics Northwest at Highland Park High School.   In the summer of 2000, I was the leader of a summer technology workshop for members of the science department.  In the summer of 2002, I participated in a summer technology workshop for members of the science department.  I have made presentations to my school's PTO, Long Range Planning committee and to our District 113 school board to showcase the science department's application of technology in laboratory experiments.

Question 5:

I have worked with other teachers in my building on projects with technology in the 2000-2001, and 2001-2002 school years.  Our collaborative team consisted of a Physical Education teacher, a biology teacher and myself. Each member of our team incorporated probe technology in classroom experiments to enhance the learning experiences, and we presented our results to the faculty during a teacher inservice day.  I provided assistance for the other members when they had difficulties with Power-point and web-page construction.  During each of my 10 years at Highland Park High School, I have presented technology applications during science department meetings.  During the fall of 2003, I served as a mentor teacher for Anne Van Lewen, who is a physics education major at Lake Forest college.  She observed my classes and we discussed teaching strategies and philosophy on a weekly basis.  On November 8th, I participated in a panel discussion at IIT for  the Chicago section of AAPT in a discussion about "Physics First."  My high school has implemented honors physics for freshmen students for over 30 years.  Other schools like New Trier and Walter Payton high school have just started to try this out in the last few years.  The perspectives from each school's representatives illuminated the difficulties associated with the transition from "traditional" sequence (biology, chemistry then physics) to the "new' sequence (physics, chemistry, then biology).  My own growth has been enhanced as I collaborate with others in their growth.

Question 6:

I incorporate the state and national science teaching standards by including experiments and demonstrations that are designed to excite and elevate student interest in physics.  When studying the acceleration due to gravity, between 1996 and 2002, we have dropped objects from the 4-story roof of our school.  We videotaped the motion, and then students played back the motion frame-by-frame on a VCR and recorded the positions of the objects with a transparency.  I made photocopies of the transparencies for each lab group, and they made position measurements.  The students needed to understand how to convert from the measurements made from TV positions to the "real-world" so that they could determine the acceleration due to gravity in our reference frame.  They used the quadratic regression function in their calculator, and than had to make the connection to the relationship that we were studying in class.  The group turned in a write-up that included their procedure, data, analysis, discussion of sources of error, and suggestions for improvements.  The group assessment also included a peer evaluation of the group dynamic and contributions.  This kind of real-world lab is what motivates students and meets several of the state (11.A.5.a-d, 12.D.5.a ) and national standards (standards B, D, and E), and is one example of the kinds of labs that are used in my classes.

Question 7:

One of my teaching innovations came out of suggestions from my students.  In the past, when studying projectiles, we used an analog videotaping method for determining the horizontal and vertical components of the acceleration of a projectile.  We used to go outside and throw or kick projectiles, and videotape the motion.  During the video playback, we encountered resolution problems because of the limitations of analog video.  One of my students suggested using digital video, and then importing the digital video into frames that could be analyzed by Adobe Photoshop.  During this school year, I have implemented this digital video method for all of my classes.  We have found that the resolution using digital video at a high shutter speed has greatly improved resolution.  Another teaching innovation this year also utilizes daily videotaping of my classes.  This daily  video log has helped my students review classes and has helped me to reflect on my teaching strategies.  Next year, when I teach some of the same topics, I can review the DVD from the previous years and make improvements on my lesson plans and teaching strategies.  Next year, I plan on creating an online digital video library so that students could download the video files from a web server.  These are examples of two innovations that I've worked on during this school year.


7.  Jay Smith, DeKalb High School, DeKalb

Nomination

Jay Smith
DeKalb High School
DeKalb, IL 60115
815-756-4734
Jsmith@dist428.org

Nomination letter:

I have known Jay for several years, and I have also known a number of his students, who speak highly of him as a teacher. Jay participated in an NSF-sponsored Teacher Enhancement program that I directed, and he was a very enthusiastic learner. In fact he wrote up one of the laboratory projects he worked on, and it was published in The Physics Teacher. He brings his physics class to our acoustics laboratory almost every year. Last summer he did an independent study project on Reverberation Time in the NIU Acoustics Laboratory. He loves students, and he coaches soccer at DeKalb High School. I am pleased to recommend him for the Teacher of the Year award.

Nominated by:

Thomas D. Rossing, Teacher and friend
rossing@physics.niu.edu

Candidate Information

Jay Smith (21 years)
125 Mattek Ave
DeKalb, IL 60115
815-756-4734
jsmith@dist428.org

Question 1:

I would like to create an environment where kids have experiences that lead to learning. Four of the areas in which I hope to help my students develop are applied mathematics, written communications, appropriate technology and problem solving.

Most of my students excel in all of their classes, especially mathematics. However, even the most gifted are often challenged when they have to apply their learned mathematical skills outside of the mathematics classroom. I hope to show them both the beautiful and practical sides of the language of mathematics.

Although my students are also talented at writing, they often find technical writing a task in which they are unfamiliar. I try to help students develop their technical writing skills as well as understand the publication process.

Most physics teachers have at their disposal technological devices that will collect and analyze data, and demonstrate and simulate phenomena. I try to use technology in the most efficient manner. I strive to make sure that the technology is there to serve the students in order to understand the physics rather than putting the technology first.

The application of physics concepts to real problems is more than a paper and pencil activity. I put an emphasis on students working with their hands to design, build and test projects with other students.

Question 2:

Since most high school physics teachers are the only physics teacher in their school it is hard to even know how one is different from other physics teachers, not to mention outstanding. However, I do feel that one of my greatest assets is my continued ability to learn, especially from and about my students. As a coach, athlete, musician and community member I have many interests in common with my students. This has given me many opportunities to associate with them outside of the classroom.

When I first started teaching I thought that the most important relationships were the ones in the text books like F=ma. What I have been learning recently is how much more important are the personal relationships I have with my students. I have come to understand and appreciate the saying, "No one will care how much you know until they know how much you care." This I learned not only from my students but from the teachers of my own children. This has led me to make greater efforts in developing better relationships with my students and their parents. Because of these recent lessons I have learned, I really look forward to the second half of my teaching career.

Question 3:

Since I expect the impact my teaching has had on students will last long after I have lost contact with them, I can only hope for what that continuing impact will be. It has been nice to see students do well on the A.P. Physics Exam without the benefit of an A.P. Physics Course, graduate with physics related degrees from prestigious schools or even become physics teachers, but I gain a greater sense of accomplishment when I see former students lead a disciplined life. Regardless of the chosen field I rejoice hearing from students who are thankful they were well prepared for the next phase of their life.

Question 4:

Most summers, with the exception of the last two I have taken physics courses at Northern Illinois University. These included an undergraduate course in Astronomy and graduate level independent studies in Room Acoustics, High Speed Photography and Holographic Interferometry. I have been more fortunate than most to live and work in a community with a university that has been willing to provide me with many great opportunities for professional development in the area of physics. More recently I have taken a course to teach English language learners.

Question 5:

Teaching in DeKalb has allowed many student observers from Northern Illinois University to visit my classroom. For some of these students it is their first such experience.

I have served as the supervising teacher for five NIU student teachers in physics. Each one has been unique and brought something special to my classes. It has been rewarding for me and my students to work with these young professionals.

In 1994 I was fortunate to have a short piece which I coauthored published in The Physics Teacher. I have another piece presently in the review process and a third I hope to finish shortly. In the past I have also been given the opportunity to serve as a referee for The Physics Teacher.

Question 6:

A couple of years ago the DeKalb High School Science Department spent the summer making sure our curriculum was aligned with the state standards. In brief we are able to accomplish these goals in the following ways.

Goal 11 - Standard A: Conducting experiments and the technical writing associated with those experiments.

Goal 11 - Standard B: Projects such as the catapult, pasta bridge, mouse trap car and the Rube Goldberg devise.

Goal 12 - Standard D: Teaching and testing on the following topics: waves, sound, light, electricity, magnetism, kinematics, dynamics, momentum, energy, rotational motion and simple harmonic motion.

Goal 13 - Standard A: Conducting experiments and the technical writing associated with those experiments.

Goal 13 - Standard B: Discussing the lives of the scientists who first discovered the basic physical laws that are taught in class.

Question 7:

Several years ago I started looking for ways to give more kids opportunities to learn about the physical world around them. One method was to develop a somewhat less intimidating course for those high school students with less interest in pure science. The result was the Physics of Sports & the Arts course. This course helps students see how basic physics principles apply to many areas of interest such as flying, boomerangs, billiards, bowling and other sports. It also takes a look at musical instruments and high speed photography.

Another method was to develop week long summer science camps for junior high age students. These camps included hands-on activities that would get kids interested in science and asking questions about the world around them.

A third method was to develop science activities where high school students could help elementary students understand and enjoy learning about the physical world. In the past I have done bridge building activities with my own children's elementary classes. I would take some of my physics students to one of the local elementary schools and we would build and test pasta bridges. Last spring I worked with a few of my physics students to produce a bridge building video and kit that elementary teachers can use with their classes. This way their activities are not limited by my schedule.


8.  Matt Zimolzak, William Fremd High School, Palatine

Nomination

Matt Zimolzak (12 years)
1000 South Quentin Rd.
Palatine, IL 60067
847-755-2600
mzimolzak@d211.org

Matt Zimolzak is an ideal candidate for Illinois Outstanding High School Physics Teacher award. Matt is an energetic, innovative, student-centered teacher that knows what it takes to engage students and get them excited about Physics. Instead of speaking to all of Matt's attributes, I will let what he does in the classroom to speak for itself.

Matt Zimolzak teaches 2 different types of physics classes, and excels at both. In his Advanced Placement Physics class, he consistently pushes his first exposure physics students to surpass national averages. Currently he classes average a 4.1 out of a possible 5 on the AP test. However, the one class that stands out the most is his Advanced Physics Course. Advanced Physics is a semester senior elective course. From the moment these students enter the class, they know it will be a different kind of class. Instead of lecturing physics concepts on the board, he allows the students to actually do the science. The students do projects such as Junkyard Wars in where they have to create a catapult from a box of junk. This makes the students apply the physics concepts in class while actually being scientists. This class culminates every semester in a very special project. Matt Zimolzak personally forged a corporate partnership with Motorola's national headquarters several years ago. The students beta test and do science experiments on new Motorola products before they come out to the consumers. They test things such as how much force a cell phone can take or how it stands up in adverse conditions. They also look at the marketing aspect and do interviews and even propose new ideas to Motorola. At the end of the semester, several Motorola executives come to the school and hear a presentation and be presented with a paper of their findings. Many of the ideas that they present are then incorporated into future designs of Motorola products. In addition, they have even given products their final name that goes out to the consumers. This project is a valuable experience for the students and for Motorola. Many students have then also gone on to do internships at Motorola to further their studies.

Matt Zimolzak embodies what it takes to be a physics teacher in today's society. He has high expectations for his students, but gives them the skills needed to succeed. He shows the students real world applications to the concepts and then has them apply the concepts themselves. Please seriously consider Matt Zimolzak for Illinois Outstanding High School Physics Teacher. It would be a perfect award for all that he does.

Nominated by:

Karl Craddock
kcraddock@d211.org

Candidate Information

Matt C. Zimolzak (12 years)
10985 Manhattan Drive
Huntley, IL 60142
847-659-8100
mzimolzak@d211.org

Question 1:

My teaching philosophy is based around the premise of helping students enjoy what they are learning. Every year that I have taught has brought about so many unique experiences in and out of the classroom. These experiences are what I base the bulk of my lessons on. To have a single one philosophy of teaching doesn't allow for the every evolving student. I believe that physics is fun if it is taught in a way that students can relate.

I enjoy the challenge of taking a seemingly difficult subject, making it enjoyable and continuing to modify and transform my lessons to an ever-changing audience. I always use the idea of becoming critical thinkers and tackling problems like scientists. 10 years from now they may not remember the science, but they can think like a scientist and know its role in their lives.

I am a strong believer in the Constructivist view of education. I will often provide the problem and have my students find the best way to solve it. I try to instill the belief that they are life-long learners, not only in the classroom, but more importantly, outside of the classroom in the real world.

Question 2:

First of all, I would like to say how honored I am that someone feels that I am worthy of even applying for this award. I also believe that there are many exceptional teachers that don't get the recognition they deserve. As far as how I am outstanding, I teach a second-exposure physics class called Advanced Physics. This class is a senior-level course where all the students have had AP Physics (which I also teach) or our regular physics course.

For the past 11 years, we have worked as an official beta testing site for Motorola Corporation. Basically, we take emerging cellular phones and put them through all of the accelerated life testing we can think of. The students design experiments to run, conduct the experiments and report back to Motorola engineers and appropriate people. Another aspect of the project is to look at what people really want in their phones. We survey, interview and conduct a focus group to gather data. We interpret this data and report back. The culmination of the project is a 2.5 hour presentation to Motorola where we present our findings and next-generation designs, which often times appear in future models. Recently, and very typically, we had corporate vice presidents, engineers, and even university representatives attend our presentations. This past time, Northwestern, University of Illinois, and Purdue were in attendance for our presentation.

This project has been the focus of numerous news articles. I have presented what we do to the Northwest Suburban Superintendents meeting along with our school board on different occasions. Through this program many students in the past 4-5 years have earned paid internships with Motorola. This is a very unique program that only I teach. I also am the lead teacher in our AP Physics program at Fremd High School.

What is most outstanding about that is the success the program has. Most high schools across the state offer AP Physics as a second exposure course. At Township High School District 211, it is offered as a first-exposure. Since I took over the reigns as lead teacher we have averaged a 4.3 out of 5 on the College Board's AP Exams in May. Most of the schools that have success at such a high level usually accomplish this as a result of some sacrifices during the course of the year. One method is to eliminate exploratory lab periods. I believe in the importance of labs. For example, as part of our electricity unit, specifically current, I ask my AP Physics students to wire up circuits in a way that they would in their own home. They are asked to construct circuits with real switches, duplexes, and fixtures they would find in a typical home. To finish out the unit, we take a trip to the home that the Building and Construction classes at Fremd build in a nearby neighborhood. The head of the Applied Tech department gives the students a tour of the home's electrical system, referencing how what they accomplished in lab is done on a much bigger scale.

It is very important to show the students that what they are learning is applicable to their lives. I also believe that the best way to learn some concepts is from the actual people who do it for their profession. In my mind, this real-world experience often times outweighs what can be accomplished reading a textbook and answering the questions at the end of the chapter.

Question 3:

My goal is to have a positive impact on as many students I can. One positive impact I had in particular, was hearing how a former student of mine went into teaching physics at a local school. Motorola was looking to expand our very successful program to other schools willing to take on such a partnership. There was a very eager teacher at Stevenson High School in Illinois that jumped at the opportunity and adjusted his curriculum to accommodate the timing Motorola had in mind. He mentioned that when he was in high school he was in the very first project I did with Motorola. His positive experience was so great that he wanted his own students to experience the same.

I have also been able to arrange the opportunity for 30+ of the seniors that I had in class to experience a paid summer internship with Motorola. The offering of a paid internship to students who have not taken a single college course was unique at the time, but has expanded so much now that a position at Motorola was created to handle all of the pre-college interns. Another benefit of this very positive business/engineering partnership is the willingness of Motorola to give the students personalized tours of their facilities, to show what it is like to be an engineer. They have a very extensive lab and testing facility that they have opened up on numerous occasions to give my students a look at how experiments are conducted by a large corporation such as Motorola.

Question 4:

During the past 5 years I have presented to the Township High School District 211 on the benefits of partnerships with the community and how it has been incorporated in my classroom. I have talked about the importance of giving students real-world experiences and bringing in professionals to share their knowledge. I also spoke to the Northwest Suburban Superintendents meeting held November 28, 2005. I presented the scope of what we do and how the program was implemented.

Also, seeing that there was a need for a calculus based physics course in our district, I have recently employed my recommendation for such a course. I have done research and survey based data collection from students at William Fremd High School to support the need. I introduced the need to the curriculum committee and am now in the process of developing the curriculum for a pilot course.

Question 5:

I am the lead teacher in AP Physics at William Fremd High School and therefore responsible for how the course is taught. Since taking over this title in 2001 we jumped from a consistent and respectable 3.2 average on the College Board test to an average of 4.33. This is extraordinary for two reasons. First, this is the highest average in the very competitive high school district. Second, this course is taught as a first exposure course. We compete for scores with the majority of other schools teaching AP Physics as second exposure. I am also the only teacher to teach the Advanced Physics course. This makes it difficult to assist other teachers if I am the only one to teach the course. However, I have worked with Motorola to develop a guide for teachers who would like to build a partnership with their local businesses. This summer-long project allowed representatives from Motorola to travel across the country and show the model I created in hopes of expanding the business-education partnerships. This model gave teachers a starting point of how what is done in my Advanced Physics class can be accomplished in their own schools. It detailed the importance of giving students real-world experience and the opportunity to work with professionals in the field.

A year ago, an Earth Science teacher in my department, who is also the head boys track coach, showed me how he was implementing a program called DartFish. This program allowed him to analyze the specific motions involved in the shot put and discus throw. It is used by professional sports and is often featured in the Olympics overlaying downhill skiers' previous attempts. Immediately, I realized the value and potential the program could have in my physics classes as a way to analyze motion and evaluate other phenomena where before it was either very difficult or impossible. After briefly discussing the value this might have in my class, I talked with the head of our technology department, conveniently a former science teacher, about the purchase of the software. He agreed that this would be a great asset to our teaching. When discussing my thought regarding the possible applications with the representative from DartFish, he was so excited that I would use this in my class that he upgraded my version to the professional version for free as long as I agreed to share with him how I used it. Since that time, I have been able to share this new method with other science teachers at my school and throughout my district.

Question 6:

It isn't very difficult to see how many of the state standards are incorporated in any science classroom. There are a few unique qualities that are exhibited in my classes. The partnership we have with Motorola allows the students to take the state standards one step further.

State Goal 11 is the primary basis for my Advanced Physics research project. They are able to take a problem, develop a hypothesis, and construct an experiment to test their hypothesis. The problems that they want to test are very unique and have never been tested before. This project is unique to any high school. This uniqueness makes my students come up with tests that will provide them with real data that has not been gathered before. In all, I believe I have incorporated the following Illinois State Goals for Science Education:

State Goal 11. Understand the processes of scientific inquiry and technological design to investigate questions, conduct experiments and solve problems.

State Goal 12. Understand the fundamental concepts, principles and interconnections of the life, physical and earth/space sciences.

State Goal 13. Understand the relationships among science, technology and society in historical and contemporary contexts.

All three of the state goals are supported through the product testing and interacting with the engineers at Motorola, but in particular the late high school goals listed for State Goal 11 are supported in the product testing.

11.A.5a. Formulate hypothesis referencing prior research and knowledge. Students research prior science and product design in developing their own suggestions for the products and their next generation.

11.A.5b. Design procedures to test the selected hypothesis. All of the experiments, surveys, interviews, and focus groups are student designed.

11.A.5c. Conduct systematic controlled experiments to test the selected hypotheses. Experiments are done where the results cannot be known (even by me) because the experiment may not have been run before. Experimental design must include controls to eliminate possible sources of error.

11.A.5d. Apply statistical methods to make predictions and to test the accuracy of results Students routinely look for statistical significance in surveys as well as experiments. Motorola engineers have been invited into class to teach students statistical models that may be useful.

Question 7:

I would say that my Advanced Physics partnership with Motorola is the most innovative practice I employ. This particular program has been in place for the past 11 years. As a result of the success of this business relationship, Motorola has given William Fremd High School's Advanced Physics class an official Beta testing accreditation.

More than 30 students in the past four years have been offered paid internships to work side by side with their engineers and project planners. The partnership has won the Illinois State Council Business-Education Partnership award, and much other local recognition. The program involves two one-semester-long classes with approximately 50 students each semester. Motorola asks for my classes to research a newly emerging device, typically in its beta stage.

We break the research into two parts, Accelerated Life (Quality) Testing, and a Target Market Analysis. The Accelerated Life Testing (ALT) group breaks into sub-groups depending on the focus. For example, a sub-group might want to test the effects the environment might have on the phone. This sub-group will design labs to simulate the extreme temperatures or debris the phone might encounter. All of the experiments are student designed and performed. The second group will devise methods of data collection in which the target market of the phone is asked about the features, reliability, and other pertinent topics. The data is analyzed and conclusions are made. Both groups, ALT and Target Market Analysis, then determine what direction Motorola should go with their next generation device.

This semester, 10 next generation designs were proposed and a 250+ page report was presented. This semester's 2 hour formal presentation was given to five of Motorola's corporate vice-presidents, representatives from Northwestern University, Purdue, and the University of Illinois' School of Engineering, our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Principal, Science Department chair, and many other Motorola engineers and representatives. The success of this program lies in the fact that my students are able to work in a way engineers do. They learn the importance of team work, leadership, and professionalism. Their technical reports and presentations are often praised for how well they are done. Many of my students are asked to work for Motorola as a result of this program, and are offered internships, often before entering college.


9.  Nicholas Drozdoff, New Trier High School, Glencoe  (Note: This was written two years ago.)

Nomination

Nick Drozdoff has worked tirelessly to promote the Physics Olympiad in Illinois for several years. Two years ago he introduced me to the process by invitation, since he had a conflict and could not be a judge himself. Usually he is the lead judge. From my one brief experience in the program, I regard the Physics Olympiad very highly. It stimulates much creative and careful work by high school students.

Nominated by:

Dave Cornell, Collaborator in Physics Olympiad
dcorn@prin.edu

Candidate Information

Nick Drozdoff (13 years)
418 Jackson Avenue
Glencoe, IL 60022
847-835-1210
drozdofn@newtrier.k12.il.us

Question 1:

I don't necessarily think of my students as empty slates that I somehow have to fill up. I think of them as all being inherently capable of great good, and that my job is to help them realize how good they already are. I believe that anyone can achieve high levels of understanding of physics by utilizing their own unique skills. In short, I expect some sort of good from every young person in my classes. I do so with a sense of joy, and I think kids respond well to this high level of expectation. They also love the sense of fun this all brings about.

Question 2:

I feel uncomfortable in answering this question as it is worded. I don't know how outstanding I am. However, I try to teach my classes in a very Socratic fashion. I use the Modeling Methods of Teaching Physics as developed by Wells, Hestenes and Swackhammer, though I have hybridized my own ideas into the system. I also use music as a lynch pin in my courses. I try to make as many connections to music as possible, as I feel that kids connect very well to this. The culminating unit for my classes is the big musical instrument project in which kids use the physics we've learned to design and build some sort of musical instrument or take an existing instrument and develop a presentation on the physical acoustics of the instrument. They love it, and it helps keep them engaged throughout the year. Finally, I approach my classes as a "weird uncle" who loves physics and music; not as "heir professor." The kids learn to trust my interest in their well being as a family member would.

Question 3:

I have had many students go into engineering as a result of our work together. One young man (when I was still at Zion-Benton) had been written off as too difficult to deal with because of raging ADD. His former teachers told me to keep him away from them and that he would never succeed. Well, I wouldn't accept that. He took physics and APC physics from me. He went on to get his MS in electrical engineering. I was so happy to witness this development. This young man was extremely bright. Some folks couldn't see past his challenges. I'm grateful I was able to. I also have had students (here at NTHS) actually change their direction in life and major in physics after sitting through my classes. Again, I'm grateful to have been witness to that, though I would argue that I just enabled him to do what he was already were capable of.

Question 4:

I have taken Paula Rutherford classes, though my biggest achievement was the completion of my second masters degree in Physics/Teaching with Gerry Lietz at DePaul. This has been along and arduous process for me due to family challenges and my continued work as a full time professional musician (I still play between 100 and 150 gigs per year). The challenge to finish was daunting if I wasn't to impact my family to negatively. My gratitude to the patience of my wife and kids as well as to the support of Dr. Lietz, knows no bounds. My final paper, incidentally, was on using music in teaching high school physics.

Question 5:

I have a rather large involvement with music on the internet. However, most folks know that I work as a high school physics teacher. I have had occasion to be contacted by people seeking a career in teaching after hearing of my experiences. In every case, I enthusiastically encourage them to teach physics. One gentleman in Iowa, as a result of our contact, has just finished student teaching and will be taking over his own rural physics program as a result. I was thrilled to hear of his work. Interestingly enough, this gentleman is a trumpeter who happened to be a subscriber to the same trumpeters listserv that I was on. Our off-list contacts were exclusively about teaching, however. This was a very interesting experience. he still contacts me, occasionally.

Question 6:

The closest thing I have done with this is the use of the Modeling Methods in Teaching Physics. We have also been involved at NTHS in dealing with these standards, as a department. As a result, I have been working harder at helping my students learn good experimental technique. I a m also passionate about having the students use their existing understanding of mathematics in an applied sense with graphical analysis. They use graphical analysis to develop mathematical models for the phenomenon they are studying.

Question 7:

The most significant "innovation" that I would claim, would be the connections to music. I have been striving to draw connections in every unit back to music. For example, in our unit on kinematics, we use motion maps and spark tape, and relate them to samplers and sampling algorithms in music (though I keep the language much simpler than this. They all seem to have a feel for musical sample rates, so it is fun to show that this process of sampling data periodically (position versus time, for example) is virtually the same thing. Only the processing of the information changes.