ISAAPT Outstanding High School
Physics Teacher Nominations
2007-2008

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 22, 2008.  Please number your choices.

 1.  John Baier, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn
 2.  Pamela Moreno, West Prairie High School, Sciota
 3.  Fred Harth, Belleville East High School, Belleville
 4.  Deborah Lojkutz, Joliet West High School, Joliet
 5.  Kunal Pujara, Highland Park High School, Highland Park
 6.  Matt Zimolzak, William Fremd High School, Palatine

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.  John Baier, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn

Nomination

John Baier (38 years)
48 N. Hickory
Clarendon Hills , IL 60514
630 942.6737
john_baier@glenbard.org

Nomination letter:

I have known John Baier as a fellow teacher for thirty years. During this tenure John and I worked closely on the physical science curricula at Glenbard South High School. As the science department chair I appreciated the way John was able to improve the physics curriculum at South. John came to South when there were very few sections of physics and very few female students taking physics. There was also no Advanced Placement physics offered. To increase enrollment, John set out first to make the curriculum stronger and more laboratory based. He encouraged students to stick with the curriculum and his thorough knowledge of physics, math and personality helped the enrollment grow. . This success translated into seven sections of physics. Later, an Advanced Placement class was designed. This growth required training new teachers. John provided mentorship and instruction to the new physics teachers. He is known throughout the district for his openness to share his ideas, labs, and lesson notes. He has been active in sharing with his colleagues throughout the country whether attending meetings, writing articles or helping with the Advanced Placement. John graded the AP exam for the College Board in 1998, 1999, and 2000. John is a team player. John recently has provided assistance to our science Olympiad team and can be seen at many school functions. The reason for this and his success in the classroom is simple - he deeply cares about young people. I can easily give John my highest recommendation for this recognition as a master teacher.

Nominated by:

Scott Iliff,
scott_iliff@glenbard.org

Candidate Information

John Baier (40 years)
48 Hickory
Clarendon Hills, IL 60514
630-655-0088 (Cell 630-484-1348
johnbaier@isp.com

Question 1:

I believe that all introductory Physics students have the right to experience the major areas of Physics - Mechanics, Waves, Light, Electromagnetism, and Twentieth Century Physics. The best method of introducing the students to this material is through the inquiry method. It is also best if the topics are presented in a historical context so that Physics can be seen not as a collection of facts but as on-going investigation of physical phenomena which occurs simultaneously with similar investigations in other disciplines.

I have been using the PSSC wave-particle story line in my course. I have retained many of the original PSSC labs, modified others so that data may be collected and analyzed through the use of computers, and developed several labs of my own which cover topics not included in the original PSSC course. On such lab, Projectile Motion, uses an "air-rocket" ; the students launch the projectile vertically and from the time of flight determine the initial velocity. The students then predict from that velocity the range the projectile would cover if fired at a 30° angle, and then fire at that angle to determine how closely the theory works using me as the target. Most labs are done in 2-student pairs making use of both old technology (stopwatches and meter sticks) as well as new technology (force senses and motion detectors).

Question 2:

A good teacher must: 1. have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter, in this case both Physics and mathematics; 2. care for young people; 3. have a understanding of the means through which real learning occurs including how to circumvent blocks to understanding.

1. My background in undergraduate school includes Calculus, Differential Equations, Complex Variables, and Linear Algebra, Modern Physics, advanced Mechanics as well as Electricity and Magnetism. My Masters includes graduate level E&M, Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Optics, and Quantum Mechanics.

2. I know how hard it is to succeed in a course such as Physics. I tell students that I received only a "C" in high school Physics and was told to take no more Physics in college. I believe that too often we worry about teaching our subject and forget about the students. We need to know what is going on in their lives that affects their ability to learn and to work with the students to get them past these challenges, including calling deans of admissions when a bright and hard working student has not made it into a school where they truly belong.

3. I have been analyzing tests and dialoguing with students for almost forty years. I have developed problem sets, demonstrations, and experiments which overcome conceptual blocks students have. For example, my students solve collisions problems from a "flying carpet" which stays at the center of mass. They find solving collision problems this way easier than using momentum and kinetic energy.

Question 3:

Comments from a recent parent and student: ... John Baier has taught 2 of my children. Nathan graduated from Princeton University... in chemistry last June, and K.C. is presently a freshman at George Washington University. Mr. Baier did not cater to Nathan's giftedness; he recognized his need to relate to his peers and helped him to do so. He recognized the struggles K.C. had in following in his brother's academic footsteps and encouraged him to never give up but to work as hard as he could. Even though others... did not feel K.C. could be successful in either AP Calculus or Physics, John felt he could succeed and he did. K.C.'s first semester grade in Calculus at George Washington University is an A. The life lessons John teaches are equally as important to what he teaches in the classroom. Mr. Baier is a teacher who cares not only about the mastery of a discipline but the development of each individual student. Thank you Mr. Baier. Marie Harbacek

Mr. Baier has had several impacts on my life. For one his pure love for the material catalyzed my interest in the subject into a burning passion. I just enjoy the concepts that explain the universe(s) we occupy: why we stay on the Earth while it rotates...and why a slinky is the coolest toy ever. Not only is he a great physic's teacher he is a great person. When a friend of mine and a student of his, Amelia Yang, lost her father at the age of 16 Mr. Baier supported her and checked up on her every day just to ask how she was doing and if their was anything he could do to help. Last year when I was applying to colleges I was rejected from six and waitlisted at Northwestern. Mr. Baier personally called the women in charge of admissions for NU for me. He then one week later he wrote one of the best recommendation letters ever. Now I am a freshmen at Northwestern University and have a 3.850 GPA, and it is thanks to Mr. Baier for making sure that my case be heard to help me get into a school I am in love with and belong at. I can think of no other teacher in my life that has ever had such a profound impact upon my life. Stephen Guerin NU

Question 4:

During the past five years, I have been heavily involved in matters relating to my church regarding potential ordination to the diaconate. (However see #5 below). However, I always manage to get to two or three ISPP meetings per year (usually at Elmhurst and one or two others). However, prior to that I was heavily involved in professional development. I was involved in a summer program for individualization of Project Physics, A program designed by Lowell Herr at the Catlin Gabel School, Portland Oregon call project PhysLab, in which we developed labs using probes and sensors. I also attended a two week seminar at the Taft School in Connecticut on teaching AP Physics. I have written articles in the Physics Teacher magazine. I have run two in-services for my department on the probe and sensor technology. And until funding was cut off at my school about seven years ago, usually attended the national AAPT meetings about every other year.

Question 5:

During summer school in 1988 at Loyola Academy, I was the cooperating teaching for a young Jesuit student teacher named Paul R. Mueller, S. J. He is currently a professor of Physics at Loyola University, Chicago. During the summer of school of 1992, I was the cooperating teacher for another young Jesuit student teacher Tim Hipskind, S.J. During the last twenty years, I have also had a number of young, prospective Physics teachers observe me. And during the spring of 2006, Mr. Rob Lang student taught under me. He is currently teaching Physics with me at Glenbard South.

My daughter graduated with a double engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis. During her last semester she decided to certify to teach mathematics through the ACE program at the University of Notre Dame. When she started in the summer of 2001, she was informed that she would have to teach three Physics classes. So from 2001 until 2003 I assisted Brigid with almost daily telephone calls. Since the school was economically challenged, I shipped her some unused equipment from my school. I also made several trips down to Florida to help her with building some of her own equipment. She is now in her seventh year of teaching Physics and is two courses away from a Masters Degree in Physics from DePaul University.

Question 6:

For the past thirty years, I have been teaching PSSC Physics which uses an inquiry technique and covers the areas mentioned in #1.

In school year 2004-05, I served on a committee to study standards and content in the district Physics courses. As a result of that study, all Glenbard high schools are now covering each of the areas mentioned in #1.

The National Standards include three which are relevant to the teaching of Physics. As I have already mentioned, I already cover the Physics material of Content Standard B. Content Standard A refers to the use of the inquiry technique which I have used consistently for the past 30 years. For appropriately five years I taught a course called Project Physics. As a result of that experience, I now teach both my honors and my regular courses following a historical framework and describing the life and contributions of the appropriate physicists. This is Content Standard G.

What is missing in the US is 1 or 2 really strong high school texts which cover the necessary material using the inquiry method and including history. Much of Canada is still using Martindale's Fundamentals of Physics (Introductory, Senior or Combined) with 1986 -1988 copyrights. The successor books, Nelson Physics 11 and 12, are great but neither is complete by itself. For these reasons, I have developed my own materials as described in #7.

Question 7:

Besides the Projectile Motion Experiment described earlier, I have developed a number of new labs. I have taken an apparatus designed to do Hooke's Law only (a spring and two masses) and expanded it so that students can derive the period of simple harmonic motion by using different springs as well as different masses. I have recently developed an inexpensive resonance experiment with which students can measure the speed of sound using two 4 foot fluorescent tube covers one of diameter 2 inches (sealed on one end and filled with water) and the other 1 inch in diameter which fits inside. I have developed an Ohm's law board with different wires which allow a student to determine how current depends on voltage, length of wire, cross-sectional area of wire, and type of wire.

While these experimental innovations are important, my most important work has been the development of the 16 notepackets covering topics from Kinematics through to Atomic Physics/Wave Nature of Particles which now come three hole punched for a binder. Each packet begins with the packet's objectives clearly stated on page 1. Next come textbook references. This is followed by subsections each of which has both worked out sample problems and problems for the student to try. At the end of all the subsections is a set of review problems for the entire packet. The inquiry labs follow next. These notepackets have been instrumental to my students' success in Physics.



 2.  Pamela Moreno, West Prairie High School, Sciota

Nomination

Pamela Moreno (2 years)
18575 E. 800 St
Sciota, IL 61475
309-456-3750
morenop@westprairie.org

Nomination letter:

Pamela Moreno is an excellent young teacher who enjoys teaching her students. She brings life into the class room by being cheerful and enthusiastic every hour about what she is teaching. She wants the students to be aware of what is going on around them and how much they can learn and see in the world of science. Mrs. Moreno wants the students to know that they can do anything they set their minds to and be a success at it.

Nominated by:

John Bushmire,
bushmirej@westprairie.org

Candidate Information

Pamela A. Moreno (2 years)
815 Meadow Dr.
Macomb, IL 61455
309-833-5080
pamore10@yahoo.com

Question 1:

I think that it is important to teach content knowledge using a variety of constructivist teaching methods, including inquiry learning, hands-on activities, learning stations. At the same time, I try to utilize the more traditional methods of lecture & note taking, which I make more interactive with question and answer periods and think-pair-share to complement the major concepts being taught. I believe that it is also important to cultivate an interest in learning and develop curiosity about science in young adults. I endeavor to create a harmonious environment that encourages a desire to learn and achieve excellence.

Question 2:

I bring a high level of energy and enthusiasm to teaching physics. I realize, as a new teacher of physics, that I am learning along with my students so it truly is a community of learning in my classroom and my students have learned to embrace that concept. As a result, I have been able to garner the full support of my students when demos go awry or an experiment does not work as planned. We improvise to make the demos and experiments work for us without compromising the content or concepts being learned. I endeavor to employ inquiry-learning activities as much as possible so the students will gain firsthand knowledge of the concepts being conveyed. I have a deep respect for the students' intelligence and abilities. I believe they know that and respond more positively to my teaching.

Question 3:

As a new teacher, I cannot yet point to past students who have gone on to pursue studies or careers in the sciences. However, I do think my teaching has had a positive impact on my students in a number of ways. One of my goals is to prepare my students to be able to succeed in college. For instance, I require them to write college level lab reports, which I closely edit for content, clear scientific writing, and proper format, so that they can begin to understand what will be required of them when they encounter college science classes. Additionally, I think that my commitment to self-improvement through pursuing an advance degree and in experimenting with new (sometimes even to me) science concepts in class allow them to see the importance in being a lifelong learner - even as an adult.

Question 4:

While I am a relatively new teacher - I received my initial licensure in Reno, Nevada in January 2005 - I have continually worked to improve my skills and increase my knowledge as a science teacher. In the summer of 2006, my husband accepted a new job and we relocated to Illinois. After settling into our new surroundings, I took the appropriate tests and completed the other requirements so that I could teach in Illinois. In September 2007, I was certified to teach AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, and all other high school science subjects at the regular level. In the summer of 2007, I enrolled in the graduate program at Sierra Nevada College in Nevada. At the conclusion of the summer, I had completed the required classes for a master's degree in arts and education. I plan to conduct my research project and write my thesis in the fall of 2008.

Additionally, in the Fall of 2007 I was accepted as an Associate Fellow in the National Science Teachers Association-Amgen Foundation NSTA New Science Teacher Academy. As part of that program, I participate in regular on-line Web seminars. The yearlong program allows me to engage in web-based professional development activities, attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Boston in March 2008 and participate in a professional development institute.

Question 5:

I regularly confer with the other science teacher at West Prairie High School. We are the only two science teachers at the school, so we work closely to share lesson plan ideas and align our curriculums so they complement each other in terms of meeting state and national standards. We are also working to create updated science curriculum maps for the science subjects we currently teach and will be adding next year. I have shared with my colleague a number of inquiry-learning activities for physical science that I had developed in my 1st year of teaching. After testing them, and seeing they were useful, she has incorporated them into her current physical science classes.

Question 6:

At the beginning of the year, I developed a curriculum map for my conceptual physics classes that would ensure adequate coverage of state standards. I have since begun the process of also incorporating national teaching standards into my lesson plans. This conceptual physics curriculum map serves as a guide for each daily lesson plan and facilitates adequate coverage of concepts that are required to master basic conceptual physics.

Question 7:

With a very limited budget and a general lack of physical resources to present demonstrations and conduct experiments I have become quite proficient at utilizing the mechanical expertise of several of my students to help me construct demos and small-scale experiment tools. I have also learned to maximize my limited technology resources - my classroom came equipped with only a large screen television set, an aging VCR unit and an overhead projector - so that I can utilize more cutting edge teaching vehicles. For example, I'm able to show students updated power point presentations (that supplement what the lectures and reading) and video science demonstrations downloaded from the Internet on the television, which I have linked to my personal laptop computer.


 
3.  Fred Harth, Belleville East High School, Belleville

Nomination

Fred Harth (32 years)
1068 Flora Lake Court
Shiloh, IL 62221-8315
618-222-3750
fharth@bths201.org

Nomination letter:

As an administrator who is in the classroom on a daily basis, I have had the privilege of observing a number of outstanding instructors. One of the most outstanding instructors I have had the privilege observing has been Mr. Fred Harth, physics teacher at Belleville East High School. Mr. Harth is an outstanding educator who daily challenges students to achieve their maximum potential as both a student and an individual.

In the classroom, Mr. Harth works diligently to provide students outstanding educational opportunities in his physics program. His creative learning experiences challenge and engage students to excel in his classroom preparing them for their college experiences. The best testimonial I can provide to demonstrate this are my many conversations with East graduates who return from college to visit our campus. During those conversations students always rave about how well they are doing in their college physics classes. These outstanding students attribute a lot of their college success to the breadth and depth of Mr. Harth's physics class.

It has been my privilege to work with a number of outstanding physics instructors through my 30 year teaching and administrative career. Mr. Fred Harth certainly ranks as one of those top instructors. I emphatically recommend him as a candidate for the Illinois Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers of Year Award.

Nominated by:

David Kniepkamp, Administrator
dkniepkamp@bths201.org

Candidate Information

Fred Harth (32 years)
1068 Flora Lake Ct.
Shiloh, IL 62221-8315
618-632-3722
fizicsfred85@att.net

Question 1:

A teacher is a person who gives of their knowledge. Not just knowledge of subject, but knowledge of life as well. I view teaching as a way of giving back, of adding to the whole. How can man advance without each person adding something to the collective. I feel that I have been given a gift, a gift of understanding and the ability to pass on that understanding. So if I can positively effect the life of just one person, I have not failed. But to succeed I must effect as many as I can. Hopefully developing in that student an understanding of the physical world and instilling in them the curiosity to understand more. I must also help them develop the skills necessary to eventually find understanding on their own. A "life-long learner" is one who has the ability to obtain knowledge on his or her own. This is what I TRY to do. This is my "philosophy of teaching".

Question 2:

I feel that I have an excellent knowledge of the subject and can communicate that knowledge in a clear, logical and enjoyable way. I have fun teaching physics and my students should have fun learning it. You know, "physics is phun"!!! I also strive to provide our students with the best learning environment that is possible. That includes one of the most up-to-date laboratory facilities in this part of the state. Our 14-station lab is as good, if not better than most of the colleges in our area. This has been an on going project of mine dating back to the early 90's (you can look up my nomination paper from 1995 to see where we started). We now have P-III computers (donated) equipped with the latest Vernier LabPro interfaces and an extensive assortment of probes and sensors (through scrimping, saving and a small lab fee). The scope of our investigations is now only limited by the imagination. Our entire physics staff (3 of us) seems to keep finding new ways to use this equipment to bring physics home for our students. That's the great thing about teaching physics. It can be the best of both worlds, hands on and/or paper, pencil and calculator.

Question 3:

I just checked to see how many college recommendations that I have written. Since 1996 I have written 159. [I had a Commodore 64 before that and never transferred any of those old files to my PC, so that's as far back as I could check.] The majority of those went for students entering fields in science or engineering. That comes to roughly 15 students per year. There are many more that never need or ask for a recommendation. Since I usually average around 25 seniors per year, I can safely say that 60-75% of my students go on to fields in science or engineering. Of that group there are 8 PhD's and 3 Doctors, that I know of. In my communications with many of these students, they seem to feel that they were more than adequately prepared for their adventures in college physics and/or engineering.

Question 4:

My professional development on the collegiate level has consisted of summer workshops and graduate education courses. I have gained most of my useful professional development from reading and networking with colleagues. The Internet has a wealth of information and ideas that I use regularly.

Question 5:

On almost a daily basis, our physics staff trades thoughts and ideas about our current curriculum. Since I'm about 15 years older in the tooth than either of my colleagues, I offer some insights when necessary (and when sought). But I have probably gained as much by seeing things through their youthful eyes as well. I have had ONE student teacher in my 32 years of teaching. He has gone on to become a very successful physics teacher at our sister school, Belleville West.

Question 6:

My teaching standards are simple. Find what is being taught in college freshman physics courses and prepare them for that. If my students are succeeding in college, than my standards are "aligned".

Question 7:

The only innovation that I can think of would be what I have nicknamed the "Mega-Work Equation". It is a unified way of handling work-energy problems. [You can find it on my course website http://209.7.209.84/harth/physics56hby clicking on the "CHAPTER INDEX" button, then the "Chapter #4 - Energy" button, followed by clicking on the "Deriving the MegaWork Equation" button.] I guess I also have a fairly extensive set of websites that I have created over the years [ http://209.7.209.84/harth ]. Not exactly groundbreaking, but very useful.



 4.  Deb Lojkutz, Joliet West High School, Joliet

Nomination

Deborah Lojkutz (20 plus years)
401 N. Larkin Ave
Joliet, IL 60436
815-727-6950
dlojkutz@jths.org

Nomination letter:

I would like to nominate Deborah Lojkutz of Joliet West High School for the Illinois Outstanding High School Physics Teacher Award. Deborah has been an active member of both the ISAAPT and the Chicago Area section of the AAPT holding a number of positions for both organizations. She is an excellent role model to her students as well as to other physics teachers.

I first met Deborah when I began attending ISAAPT meetings in 1989. I can not remember ever attending a meeting where she did not give at least a Take 5 presentation. Whenever I have attended Physics Day at Great America with my students, Deborah has been volunteering at the Data Vest site. Her ability to work with both teachers and students on how to use and interpret the data they collect has been inspirational. Deborah has also demonstrated a willingness to improve her teaching methods. During the Summer of 2000 Deborah attended the week long Comprehensive Conceptual Curriculum for Physics (C3P) workshop at Rock Island High School. Her enthusiasm and willingness to try new activities was extremely helpful. Last summer I attended the Modern Physics Workshop at FermiLab. Part of the day was spent rotating through various workshops. The last one I attended was conducted by her. In an hour I learned two new strategies that helped my students better understand Millikan's Oil Drop experiment and half life.

I strongly recommend Deborah for the Outstanding Physics Teacher of Illinois award. Her devotion to teaching has impacted more than just the students who are lucky enough to have her as their teacher.

Nominated by:

Gary Wolber, physics teacher/friend
gdwppsm@aol.com

Candidate Information

Deborah L. Lojkutz (18 years)
811 Willow Ct.
Shorewood, IL 60404
815-729-3449
dlojkutz@jths.org

Question 1:

My philosophy of teaching Physics is that students MUST experience Physics first in order to gain an understanding of it. Physics Phenomenon must be presented to the students by means of a lab or demo. The lab activities should be inquiry based. Don't tell the students the answer they are trying to find. Let the students discover the results. On the day after the lab, tie everything together by discussing the theory and how to solve the problems. A Physics class should be an active learning environment and Physics should be phun.

Question 2:

I feel that I am an outstanding physics teacher because I truly care about my students. I want them to succeed in all their classes. I take the time to make sure that they understand what we are covering. I am available to help them during, before and after class. I also feel that my students are challenged in my classes. They have to work to get that A. My class requires them to think and problem solve. Memorizing is just not enough. Some students have a hard time with this in the beginning, but most appreciate learning these skills in the long run. Lastly I take the time to read, grade and comment on their all lab reports. They know I feel what they write is important and they put in that extra effort to think through what they are writing. As a result I feel they learn more.

Question 3:

Each year, our students fill out an evaluation of us for the administration. Recently I was given copies of my student's comments. I was impressed by the number of comments I got that said they appreciated that I took the time to help. Many felt that I made a subject that they thought to be hard, easy to understand. I made the subject fun. One said my class was a lot of work, but they learned a lot, too. In general, the impact I have on my students is that they know I care about them and I am willing to take the time to help them succeed in my class.

Question 4:

I have been an active member and officer of both the Illinois and Chicago Sections of AAPT for over 15 years. I try to share something I feel is useful at every section meeting I attend. I also participate in the monthly ISPP and Physics West meetings in the Chicago area. Sharing ideas with fellow Physics teachers is the best form of professional development. Also two summers ago I took a week-long workshop on teaching AP Physic at Loyola.

Question 5:

From 2000-2005, I taught a teaching methods class each quarter for National Louis University's MAT program. My students where adults who already had a degree and had worked in a career outside of education, but were returning to school to get teacher certification and a Masters in Teaching. My students where all planning to teach Physics, Chemistry, or Earth/Space Science.

I am currently the senior Physics teacher in my district. I have been a member of the Science Subject Area Committee and wrote the curriculums and district goal tests for each of our three levels of Physics. I am currently assembling binders of labs, activities, problems and other resources for use by all our Physics teachers in teaching our curriculum.

Question 6:

The Joliet High School District started a curriculum alignment project in 2000. The purpose of this project was to align all classes in all subject areas across the district with state and national standards. As a member of my district's Science Subject Area committee I was responsible for aligning and writing the curriculum for each of our three levels of Physics. As part of this project I worked with other science teachers from the district to make sure that all state science standard are incorporated in our curriculum.

Question 7:

Every day I start my class with a Question of the Day (Q of D). Typically it is a problem related to their homework, the lab they are about to do or the lab they just completed. I allow the students to talk with each other about the Q of D, but I limit how much time they get to complete it (typically 3 to 5 minutes). To save paper, the students use the same sheet of paper each day. I collect, discuss and grade the Q of D every day. In doing so, I am able to see the student's level of understanding, it gets the students on task, and provides a starting point for the day's activities.

I have also created many lab activities and demos to introduce Physics topics to my students. I believe that they must experience Physics in order to learn and appreciate it.



 5.  Kunal Pujara, Highland Park High School, Highland Park

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

Kunal Pujara (14 years)
433 Vine Avenue
Highland Park, IL 60035
224-765-2276
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, all of the students have presented problems to their peers by the end of each quarter. 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 Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism 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 windows media player format (wmv files). Over the past five years, 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 or videofiles and take notes at their own pace. If a student wants to review material, they can download the video files to a flash drive 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 in 2004-2005, 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 acknowledgment 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. At every physics teacher meeting that I attend, I have shared a demonstration that I use in my classes. 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. On 12/18/07, I attended an articulation meeting with 8th grade science teachers of middle schools that feed into our district so that we can work together on meeting state standards and achieve our goals for all students to succeed in high school science classes. We plan to meet again in the spring of 2008 to continue our collaboration efforts.

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 of that year, 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 projectile motion, I videotape students throwing projectiles across a room that has vertical and horizontal meter sticks in the screen. I use a digital camera with high shutter speed and then convert the video files to jpeg formats. The students use Adobe Photoshop to analyze the jpeg files and locate the horizontal and vertical pixel coordinates of the projectile in each frame (jpeg). 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 horizontal and vertical components of acceleration. For the horizontal and vertical position as a function of time graphs, they fit the data using the quadratic regression function in their calculators or on Microsoft Excel, and than had to make connections to the relationships that we were studying in class. The groups turned in a write-up that included their procedure, data, analysis, discussion of sources of error, and suggestions for improvements. 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:

I believe that I am one of the few high school teachers in the country that is video recording classes daily and making them available online to my students. Each day after school, students can log in to the school media server from home or from a school computer and download the class that was recorded that day. Students have loaded several classes onto their video iPods for convenient review when they are away from a computer or DVD player. Students who miss notes due to an absence or special needs can review classes at a pace and a time that is convenient for them. I have been told that students feel less stressed about missing class because they know that they can see what they missed and it "feels like being in class." On 12/18/07, I was absent in my afternoon classes due to an 8th grade science articulation meeting, so I had the substitute teacher play the DVD recording from my morning classes and those students did not fall behind as a result.



 6.  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

Nomination letter:

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 (13 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 12 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 have 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 4.4 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. These 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 35 students in the past five 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.