ISAAPT Outstanding High School Physics Teacher
Candidate Information
2010-2011

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 20, 2011.  Please number your choices.
1. Donald Dickey, Civic Memorial High School, Bethalto
2. Thomas Oelkers, Dunlap High School, Dunlap
3. Mary Quigle, Macomb High School, Macomb
4. Scott Schlapkohl, Alton High School, Alton
5. Bill Sindewald, Batavia High School, Batavia
6. Rebecca Vieyra, Cary-Grove High School. Cary
7. Jay Walgren, Vernon Hills High School, Vernon Hills

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. Donald Dickey, Civic Memorial High School, Bethalto

Nomination

Don Dickey (33 years -13 years as a physics teacher)
124 Bradford Place
Jerseyville, Illinois 62052
618 498-6002
ddickey@bethalto.org

Nomination letter:

Mr. Dickey is a tenacious person who achieves at the highest level. He is honest, straightforward, trustworthy, knowledgeable, personable, and cares about his students learning. Don is a leader who brings new and creative projects to his classroom. Civic Memorial High School has been fortunate to have a person of Don's caliber and qualities working at out school. In my five years here at Civic Memorial, many students have returned during their college break, thanking Mr. Dickey for the knowledge that was received in his Physics classes. A student who attends Washington University shared that she was well above the her other classmates in her first college class and attributes that to Mr. Dickey.

Mr. Dickey it totally committed to the education profession and to the well being of all students. He teaches his students to appreciate the Sciences and when they leave his class, the are very confident when they go to the next level. His has great control over his classroom and rarely needs assistance from the administrators in matters of discipline. He arrives to school early and stays late for students in need of extra help. He even spends time with former students in need of assistance with their college Physics classes.

If you want to honor a team player, which stands not only in time of comfort and convinces, but, also in time if controversies and challenges, Mr. Don Dickey is the one. He is a person with a pleasant personality, resourceful, hard working, dedicated, and has an enormous energy level for the field of Science. His 33 years of service to educating students are exemplary. He deserves consideration for the High School Physics Teacher of the Year Award.

Nominated by:

Debra J.Pitts, Principal of Civic Memorial High School
dpitts@bethalto.org
Dec. 9, 2010

Candidate Information

Donald V. Dickey (32 years,14 years in physics)
124 Bradford Place
Jerseyville, Illinois 62052
(618) 946-1229
ddickey@bethalto.org
Dec. 12, 2010

Question 1:

I believe education should be fun while maintaining an eye on the prize. I believe as a science teacher that prize is preparing students for college. In the case of teaching physics I hope to prepare my students to be able to be an engineer, and/or able to do the physics expected of a first year science student in college. I believe humor is essential in the classroom and try to make class time entertaining, while preparing student mentally for the challenges of college, as well as making them "Physically" literate.

Question 2:

I don't know that I am an outstanding physics teacher. I teach and have taught several sciences and I would assume the outstanding teachers are "specialists" My major was biology, and I teach more sections of chemistry. I certainly am not an outstanding physics teacher if my knowledge is the criterion.

I imagine what would make me outstanding if anything is my "ph"asination with how things in the world work, and how "ph"un it is to discover answers or propose solutions to problems.

Question 3:

I think I help prepare students for the challenges of college. The rewards of teaching usually aren't observed by the teacher. I have taught engineers, doctors, science teachers, computer programmers, "ph"armers, and artists. Some have come backed and told me of their success. But if I am doing my job correctly, (as well as the student's other teachers), my impact may not be realized, even by the student. The student learned how to analyze problems, propose solutions, and communicate effectively. That is a collaborative effort with my contribution being no more significant than their first grade teacher or their English teacher.

Question 4:

I have taken classes in physics and in chemistry at SIUE. I have served on the schools curriculum council for several years.

Question 5:

As president of our local teacher's union the Bethalto Education Association I helped develop the teacher evaluation instrument currently used by our district. I have had student teachers in biology, and chemistry. I have had several students in education observe my classes. I have assisted the teachers that also teach chemistry and physical science find materials, labs, and curriculum.

Question 6:

I match my lessons to state learning standards, I always try to accomplish something each day in class, and I try to get the students to think. I feel a responsibility to prepare students for college and using that as my goal and I than look to see which standards I have met in this process. I am sure I don't meet them all, but I also think I have a good idea what students need to be able to succeed in college and that is where my focus is.

Question 7:

Several years ago, when I was teaching at Brussels and we were involved with the Illinois' Rivers project, I had my physics class of four students build a 12 foot sailboat out of aluminum cans, 2 liter bottles, and duct tape. We then had a student "sail" this boat the "Precycler" at Pere Marquette Park with the entire Brussels student body watching.

I teach with toys, although I didn't invent this idea. I use humor, usually at the expense of my wife, never students, when discussing concepts like mass, big, small, and the importance of units. I have had students write and sing physics carols for Newton's Birthday, but again these are not my innovations. As a teacher, I am guilty of stealing ideas from teachers much greater than I.



2. Thomas Oelkers, Dunlap High School, Dunlap

Nomination

Tom Oelkers (16 years)
5220 W. Legion Hall Rd.
Dunlap, IL 61525
309-243-7751
toelkers@dunlapcusd.net

Nomination letter:

Tom Oelkers has been teaching Physics at Dunlap High School for the past 16 years. In that time he has established Dunlap as one of the premier science schools in the nation. We have exceeded state and national standard due to the problem-solving techniques he has empowered his students with.

We have a large majority of our students taking physics. The fact that he demands the best from his students resounds in the achievements they earn in postsecondary programs. He differentiates his teaching to challenge the gifted and support the developing students. He does this through engaged learning activities. One activity that becomes a school event is the cardboard boat project he has the students participate in. He has them develop a boat using appropriate physics designs and formulas. They must first prove mathematically that the boat will float before they prove the seaworthiness of the boasts in our school swimming pool. He also has the students develop a Rube Goldberg machine and a model rocket. They create written lab reports for all work and learn the appropriate methods of citing resources.

Tom has a Masters Degree in Instructional technology. This degree has enabled him to use the most appropriate educational technology in his classroom,. He utilizes computer based physics labs weekly. He also utilizes best practices in education such as cooperative learning, study groups, and student led discussions. He is available for help before and after school for his students. Often he is one of the last teachers in the building each night as he has been working with students only to need to set up a lab for the next day after they leave.

Tom is pursuing another degree in administration with the purpose of reinventing himself again according to the latest educational research. Tom has used his knowledge from that program to create student data centers and has developed more alternative assessments. I feel that Tom is not only one of the greatest assets to our school but he is also one of the best kept secrets in the State of Illinois.

Nominated by:

Thomas Welsh, Principal, Dunlap High School
twelsh@dunlapcusd.net
Nov. 9, 2010

Candidate Information

Thomas F Oelkers (19 years)
12103 N Whispering Woods Dr
Dunlap, IL 61525
309 243 9730
Toelkers@dunlapcusd.net
Dec. 20, 2010

Question 1:

I believe that it is the students' responsibility to learn the material and the teacher's responsibility to engage the students so that are motivated to learn. Students take my class for a variety of reasons. Some are taking to help their future careers, others because their parent and counselors tell them. Some think it will look impressive on a resume or transcript. What it all comes down to is that all students can learn the concepts of physics if you can relate it to them. If I can provide and explain real life examples, the students will relate and then they will start to understand.

Question 2:

I am willing to do more for my students than most teachers and at the same time I do not lower my standards. This takes hard work and creativity. I always have students before and after school for extra help. I regularly give up my prep period and lunch for tutoring students. I also am on call every night until 9:30 for homework help. I am constantly adjusting my coursework to the needs of the students. Just this year I found that a majority of my students had a poor foundation in math particularly trigonometric functions and vectors. To remedy this, I used our school's homeroom time in a small auditorium to teach all five of my classes the necessary skills to do the problems. I am always on the lookout for new ideas on how better to deliver the material

Question 3:

I believe that my students enjoy my class and it has benefited them to a great degree. I think most of my students benefit from thinking about things differently. I have had a baseball player claim that he did not swing at a pitch because suddenly understood the choking up would increase his swing speed. Several students, after taking my class, point out that many things they see in the movies cannot happen in real life. I think helping my students to visualize and conceptualize events is the biggest impact I have made with my students, especially the ones who do not plan to continue in physics.

Question 4:

Mostly, I keep updating my self with current trends and technology. I take a lot of course on education and how to better present the material. I am currently working on a second masters degree. This will be in school administration. I really have no plans on becoming an administrator, but I feel that it will give me a greater insight in understanding administrators. It will also help me if I pursue the department chair position or evaluate teachers/ educational programs.

Question 5:

I often help my colleagues with technology (mostly multimedia, computer, smart boards, etc) and redesigning lab activities. I have recently discovered that a number of faculty members taking graduate coursework have difficulty with statistics. I help interpret data and calculations when they need assistance. Our department has always been very open about mentoring our new teachers and I help promote that by assisting with procedural items, lab setup, acquiring items, etc.

Question 6:

Unfortunately, I am probably not the best candidate in this area. To be honest, I have my check sheet to make sure that I cover those topics relevant to physics. Most the states standards are stated as check off list. I guess my best answer is that I try to make what is listed as standard more understandable and enjoyable to learn.

Question 7:

I like big projects. Big projects motivate students especially if they are fun. I have taken some small (rather lame) lab activities and made them bigger and more exciting. For example, one of the activities in our book has the students take a 10cm x 10cm piece of foil and make a small boat. The boat is then placed in a shallow pan and pennies are added until the boat sinks. The student compare their designs. I modified this activity with cardboard, duct tape, and the school's swimming pool. Originally, the students designed a boat that would hold ten or more students, proved that it works mathematically, and then built a boat to test it. Now it has evolved into a annual cardboard boat race, with bragging rights, audiences, and even local media coverage. Now the students are excited about learning about Archimedes' and Bernoulli's Principles



3. Mary Quigle, Macomb High School, Macomb

Nomination

Mary Quigle (17 years)
810 Chesapeake Rd.
Colchester, IL 62326
(309) 776-5268
quiglem@mcusd185.org

Nomination letter:

I have known Mary Quigle for one entire school year and a quarter of another. I find that she is extremely dedicated to her students and to her area of expertise. I have also observed her as a coach in both golf and softball and have had additional opportunities to see her in action with our students.

In her classroom, all students are treated fairly and consistently. She has established excellent expectations for her students and yet has shown great flexibility when the situation warrants. Mrs. Quigle is also not afraid to express her opinion in the classroom and in my office on issues that are relevant to the education and treatment of our students and staff. She is not afraid to "walk the walk" when it comes to work ethic, citizenship, and a cooperative spirit. When it comes to the advocacy of her students, Mrs. Quigle is a positive role model for her fellow staff members.

During her coaching tenure, she has provided instruction and leadership to countless athletes. She has unselfishly provided her own funds in purchase of equipment when our athletes needed them. Mrs. Quigle has been a positive role model in our coaching staff and holds her athletes accountable for their academics during the season.

I am proud to nominate Mrs. Mary Quigle for this prestigious award. If I can answer or provide any other information to this selection process.

John N. Rumley, Principal Macomb High School

Nominated by:

John N. Rumley, Her Principal
rumleyj@mcusd185.org
Nov. 22, 2010

Candidate Information

Mary F. Quigle (17 years)
810 Chesapeake Road
Colchester, IL 62326
309-776-5268
quigle@mcusd185.org
Jan. 6, 2011

Question 1:

I am a specific individual who has to learn to adjust to the different learning needs of my students.

Question 2:

Outstanding is a strong adjective of one's being. For some students I have made a huge impact and others I have not. That is being realistic. I am fair and consistent to all. I have to earn their trust and respect. I continue to take physics' classes so I can stay on top of new and old revisited concepts. We relate our everyday lives to Physics.

Question 3:

Many of my Problem solving Physics students go on and Major in Physics or some related field. My students have done well in their college physics class. I have developed my class structure similarly to a college class. Getting a solid B or A in their college physics gives them confidence. It is not easy to get an A in my high school class but later they will realize how I have prepared them.

Question 4:

I have taken many classes or workshops. Right now I am concentrating on RTI or differentiated teaching. Not all learn the same and not all of us deliver the material the same.

Question 5:

I have been a mentor teacher several times. Last year was the last time I mentored. Most students coming out of college are blind sided by all that it takes to teach. They may know their area of content but discipline, beahavioral issues, adjustments, paper work, time management, etc. are a major concerns for them.

Question 6:

I have developed a core curriculum exam that hits all of our state standards. Which I give 3 times during the year to check progress of my students. I have a curriculum map for every month with my learning standards listed. For the state of Illinois their standards have changed in math and reading to the National Standards. I believe they will adapt the national science standards as soon as they are completed.

Question 7:

I am huge in devoloping trust, discipline, and consistancy in my classes. If we get those in line the content is so much easier to deliver. We can do group work, projects, oral assignments/test and they know what is expected of them. I allow students to teach some material to their peers. I video tape myself to make adjustments to teaching style or deliver of the material. Using ipods to find information about physics is great.



4. Scott Schlapkohl, Alton High School, Alton

Nomination

Scott Schlapkohl (6 years years)
3640 Buck Ridge Rd.
Godfrey, Illinois 62035
618.466.3097
sschlapkohl@altonschools.org

Nomination letter:

I would like to recommend Scott Schlapkohl for Outstanding High School Physics Teacher. I have known Scott as a teacher at Alton High School for the past six years. During that time, he has taken on an important leadership role within the science department.

Mr. Schlapkohl is an exceptional teacher. Scott has taught all levels of physics from introductory courses to our most rigorous AP Physics course. He works well with all types of students because he understands and incorporates a multitude of differentiated instructional strategies. He co-teaches with a special educator and together they have created a wonderful learning environment where every student experiences success.

Scott is a life-long learner. He recently passed his National Board Certification. Additionally, Scott is working on his school administrative certification through courses with McKendree University. Scott is always interested in participating in professional development and takes advantage of any learning opportunity.

Scott is a teacher leader. He currently serves as a division chair on our School Improvement Team. He has provided guidance to our SIP team on data disaggregation and interpretation. He is always willing to share new information by presenting to our staff. Scott realizes the importance of working with new teachers. He is a mentor to our younger staff and provides guidance and support to ensure a successful teaching experience.

Mr. Schlapkohl is truly dedicated to his career. Scott is retired from the military, but has embraced this second career with passion. He works above and beyond to develop engaging and fascinating learning experiences for students at every level. He sponsors the WYSE program (World Youth in Science and Engineering) and takes students to trebuchet contests at our local community college.

Scott Schlapkohl is an excellent example of an outstanding teacher. It is with great pride that I recommend him for the prestigious award of Outstanding High School Physics Teacher.

Nominated by:

Barb Gillian, Principal
bgillian@altonschools.org
Dec. 7, 2010

Candidate Information

Scott R. Schlapkohl (5 1/2 years)
3640 Buck Rdg
Godfrey, IL 62035
618-466-3097
sschlapkohl@altonschools.org
Jan. 31, 2011

Question 1:

I see myself as a teacher leader who is dedicated to increased student learning. To provide increased student learning, a teacher leader must accomplish several simultaneous tasks. The teacher leader must have an in-depth understanding of pedagogical content knowledge. The teacher leader must effectively integrate cooperative learning and inquiry-based teaching into daily lessons. The teacher leader understands that effective classroom management depends upon student engagement. The teacher leader connects with students' family members in meaningful ways to establish productive, mutual relationships. The teacher leader is adept at utilizing formative and summative assessments to measure student learning. Teacher leaders engage in self-reflection and are life-long learners. Teacher leaders work in professional learning communities to improve school effectiveness. The ultimate objective of these tasks is increased student learning.

Question 2:

In Physics AP-B, I have advocated for a two hour block each day so that my students can experience the full Physics AP-B curriculum. I use a combination of inquiry, discussion, lecture, labs, guided practice, and individual practice to insure the students learn the Physics AP-B curriculum. Last year, the percent of my students who received a 5 on the AP test was over twice the national average, and the percent of my students who received 3 or better on the test was 23% higher than the national average. In our sophomore integrated physical science class which supports our bottom students, I advocated the need for physics teachers to teach the physics semester of this course and chemistry teachers to teach the chemistry semester. For many of our students, this is the last science course they will ever take making it critical for science literacy. The course is primarily an inquiry based course with the students developing their own scientific knowledge through the use of the scientific method in cooperative groups. The students collaborate to build such things as simple motors, electromagnets, and toothpick bridges as they investigate science. Additionally, they develop their own experiments to determine such things as the speed of an electric car and the acceleration of car down a ramp. These labs are followed with post labs which allow the students to use their newly gained knowledge to solve problems similar to ones they will encounter during the PSAE.

Question 3:

As Science Division Chair, I have made curriculum changes to increase student learning. When I started as Division Chair half of our incoming freshman took biology and half took a science survey course, which was taught by biology teachers. This course was supposed to be a quarter each of earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics. However, the biology teachers were not fluent in physical science and made the course mostly biology. These students took biology in their sophomore year which completed their science graduation requirements without having very much physical science. Three years ago, I proposed a change of curriculum that was approved by the administration. All students take biology during their freshman year. In their sophomore year, students either take chemistry or integrated physical science. Additionally, as biology teachers retired or moved to other districts, I advocated the need to have subject matter experts teach in their field. Through these efforts our school district hired two additional physics teachers. Each of the physics teachers teaches one of our primary physics courses and teaches one or two sections in our integrated physical science. This course, taught to the bottom half of our sophomore class, not only teaches scientific critical learning skills, but it also teaches reading, writing, and algebra skills which are needed for success during the PSAE. These efforts have shown an increase in our average EXPLORE, PLAN, and PSAE science scores.

Question 4:

As a teacher, I am a lifelong learner who continuously works to improve the quality of my practice to increase student learning. During the past five years, I have grown from a novice teacher with an initial teaching certificate with endorsements in science-physics, science chemistry, mathematics, and business, marketing, and computer education to a master teacher. In 2010, I became a National Board Certified Teacher and received my NBPTS: Adolescence & Young Adulthood/Science endorsement. Additionally, I am nearing completion of the course work necessary to gain a General Administrative Certificate. I take advantage of professional development activities, such as a Small Learning Communities (SLC) Conference; Professional Learning Communities (PLC); Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS); Social Justice, and Co-teaching workshops. I am a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Finally, I have taken refresher physics college courses to expand my content knowledge.

Question 5:

I volunteer to mentor pre-service teachers and novice teachers. Novice teachers have many questions concerning school procedures as well as many fresh ideas from college. This combination makes mentoring a fruitful experience for both the mentor and mentee. Our school has two new physics teacher on staff, with whom I spend approximately three hours per week discussing curriculum, classroom management, and personal issues. I have been the cooperating teacher for a pre-service teacher. Many times novice teachers and pre-service teachers are unsure of their teaching. They do not understand the difficulties the students have with the material. By observing and critiquing the instructional approach of the mentee, I can discreetly discuss curriculum, classroom management, and student preconceptions and learning difficulties with the mentee. At the beginning of the year, our mentoring sessions focused on classroom management and the other teachers' successes and failures. Once classroom management was under control, we started to discuss student preconceptions. Most physics students come with an Aristotelian view of the world, which inhibits their ability to learn new material. Our mentoring sessions focused on the disconnect between what the novice teacher thinks the students know and the students preconceptions, and then how to overcome these preconceptions. The main topic in the mentoring sessions is to make physics open and understandable for all.

Question 6:

Our school uses the ACT's college readiness skills in conjunction with the state teaching standards to develop the scope and sequence of our curriculum. The science college readiness skills are mainly taught during multivariable labs and post labs. During the inquiry based labs, the students get a hands-on experience where they use the scientific method to develop experiments to investigate multivariate problems. However, students' processes and measurements often are not as accurate as needed to make sound assessments of the data. Therefore, during the post-labs, I provide a lab write up and good data that is based upon the same problem and is written in a form similar to an ACT test. In this way, the students get experience manipulating lab equipment and experience solving ACT type problems. I use the state standards in conjunction with our school's curriculum to develop lessons that provide the essential scientific knowledge our students need. In my Physics AP B course, I use College Board's course description to develop and sequence the lessons and labs.

Question 7:

An oil refinery is a major employer in our area. Their representatives have requested that our high school help prepare some of our students to work as plant operators. In cooperation with our local community college, I am developing an Applied Technical Physics course that will provide our students dual credit toward an Associates in Applied Science Degree in Process Operations Technology. This degree will give the students the necessary credentials to work at the refinery. During the Applied Technology Physics course, the students will explore the laws of motion, statics, dynamics, simple machines, and heat, with special emphasis on the application of principles related to modern technology.



5. Bill Sindewald, Batavia High School, Batavia

Nomination

Bill Sindewald (22 years)
1201 Main street
Batavia, Illinois 60510
630-937-8981
william.sindewald@bps101.net

Nomination letter:

To Whom it may concern,

I'm writing to nominate Bill Sindewald who is an outstanding Physics teacher. Bill is one of the most dedicated teachers I have had the privilege of working with. Bill's Physics students are engaged with his hands on real world experiences incorporated into the curriculum. They are college ready and often write him letters of thanks after successful completion of their college courses. Bill is not only well liked by his students (the senior class repeatedly nominates him as their favorite teacher) but also by their parents and his colleagues.

Bill currently teaches Physics, Honors Physics and is developing an AP Physics course for our school. Bill has also sponsored the games club. Bill has also been involved in the development of Professional Learning communities at our school. He is currently in a PLC that is developing benchmark skills for freshman honors course. Last year, his PLC created an online site for Physic students to access coursework and class information. Bill also continues his professional development by continually taking classes and attending workshops not only in his content area but also in how to deliver that content.

Thank you for considering Bill for this honor.

Nominated by:

Mary Jane Tupper, Science Department Chair
maryjane.tupper@bps101.net
Nov. 15, 2010

Candidate Information

William Sindewald (21 years)
2 s 101 Waltham Ct.
Warrenville, IL 60555
630-393-4363
william.sindewald@bps101.net
Dec. 14, 2010

Question 1:

Choose a worthy goal. Mine is that all students will ace their first college physics class. Teach directly. Lots of guided practice. Lots of quizzes. Lots of hands on lab experiences (we do around 45 per semester). Lots of visuals. Lots of humor. Keep a really positive, fun atmosphere. Grade everything quickly and return it. Show everyone that basic physics is easy if someone shows you how to do it and then you try it for yourself.

Question 2:

I am really good at enabling large masses of students to master physics and have fun at the same time. I am good at explaining things in different ways if my first attempt didn't reach everyone. I am really good at making my physics class fun and active for the students. I am really good at getting lots of students who don't normally succeed in math and science to be successful in both. I get a ton of positive feedback from students, alumni, and parents about this course.

Question 3:

Many, many students tell me they are choosing engineering majors or other science majors in college because they loved physics. I have received a ton of feedback from my former students who tell me they aced college physics or passed physics proficiency exams because they learned physics so well in my class. Many kids come to school on days when they are not well just to attend physics and then go home. On open house nights, crowds of parents come to meet me and shake my hand and tell me how much their child loves physics. The students ask me to speak at graduation every year. I can't every year, but they ask me. My '08 speech is on YouTube under 'Sindewald's speech."

Question 4:

I have taken a lot of grad courses in the realm of education. I have attended an AP conference.

Question 5:

I have taught another teacher to teach physics. He doesn't know much about it, but his kids were still successful. When I started here, there were only 32 physics students. Now, we have something like 180 each year. Too many sections for me. I will be training a new guy next term.

Question 6:

My goal is to teach kids physics well enough so that they ace college physics at the University of Illinois. That is a higher standard than state and national teaching standards.

Question 7:

Nothing new really. Teaching physics is a simple equation. 1. choose a worthy goal. 2. guarantee the students they will reach that goal if they follow my program. Bring everything to life through hands on lab experiences. 3. follow this cycle---teach, guided practice, answer questions, quiz--repeat for the concepts in the unit---review quiz and worksheet before the test--then test. 4. make sure every single student knows that I am in their corner and they will succeed. 5. Keep things light and funny and fun. As they say in Mississippi, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."



6. Rebecca Vieyra, Cary-Grove High School. Cary

Nomination

Rebecca Vieyra (4 years)
2208 Three Oaks Rd.
Cary, IL 60013
847-639-3825
rvieyra@d155.org

Nomination letter:

I am writing to recommend Ms. Rebecca Vieyra as a candidate for your Physics Teacher of the Year Award. During her time here as a member of our Science Department at Cary-Grove High School she has demonstrated several outstanding attributes that lead me to believe she is a truly outstanding teacher.

Rebecca has proven to be an excellent teacher in her short time with us. Her dedication to students is nothing short of phenomenal. She constantly considers the needs of her students as she prepares their lessons and corresponding assessments. Their background knowledge, personal interests, and ability levels are the foundational pieces on which Rebecca builds her challenging curriculum. Her lessons are always designed around relevant real world applications. The rigor in her lessons is substantive, but her presentations and activities allow for students to achieve success without realizing jut how very rigorous it is. Importantly, Rebecca strives to not only have students to understand the content, but to be able to apply it and synthesize ideas as a result. She clearly expects that students in her physics class are going to "experience" science. Enhancing her teaching is Rebecca's exemplary power of reflection. She is constantly evaluating the achievement of her students and her teaching methods so that adjustments can be made to insure the comprehension of the students. Her "whatever it takes to get the job done" attitude often takes the form of providing individualized assistance to any student that she determines needs the extra attention. As you may imagine accomplishing all of this daily requires a tireless work ethic. While she certainly possess that characteristic, her tremendous organizational skills allow her the efficiency to successfully provide for her students in their times of need.

In addition to the aforementioned characteristics, Rebecca clearly demonstrates a willingness to lend a helping hand whenever necessary. We are extremely fortunate to not only have someone modeling those characteristics, but also to have her actively assisting others to improve their craft. She is an energetic participant in our Course Learning Teams and also does a great job of helping other teachers in her department regardless of any commonality of their teaching preps. She is the consummate team player.

In closing, I highly recommend Rebecca Vieyra for your award. She is motivated to improve her content knowledge and her teaching skills. Importantly, she's motivated to do so out of a desire to improve the learning of her students. We certainly consider her to be a credit to our institution. If I can be of any further assistance in recommending Rebecca, please do not hesitate to telephone me at school (847-639-3825x115).

Nominated by:

Jay Sargeant, Principal
jsargeant@d155.org
Nov. 12, 2010

Candidate Information

Rebecca Vieyra (4 years)
53 Pine Ct.
Crystal Lake, IL 60014
(309) 824-8853
rvieyra@d155.org
Jan. 4, 2011

Question 1:

I view my students as more than just students of physics – I provide a broad education that educates the whole student in both the content and process of science. I want my students to become scientifically literate consumers of information, and I want them to achieve this goal by becoming critical thinkers through analysis of the physical world. My philosophy is constructivist: I recognize that students come into the classroom with substantial prior knowledge, including erroneous ideas. I elicit and then aim to help students identify, confront, and resolve misconceptions about physics, while giving them a chance to practice real-world thinking skills. My teaching philosophy in action emphasizes student inquiry – I have students derive almost all concepts and equations through labs, collaboration, and class-wide consensus, without deferring to “textbook approaches.” I teach contextually, emphasizing the importance of socio-cultural and historical influences on the institution of science (the nature of science) as well the development of its accompanying body of knowledge (science content), and resulting effects on societal issues and technology. My role as a teacher is to provide students with opportunities to experience physics and to guide them in their self-directed and cooperative learning. I use multiple learning approaches, and attempt to incorporate labs, interactive demonstrations, discussions, traditional worksheets, computer simulations, and media into the class. The role of my students is to develop models that represent the way the physical world functions, and to develop critical thinking skills that are applicable to many walks of life – not just physics!

Question 2:

I aim to be an outstanding teacher by making physics relevant to students through connections to their families, their interests, and to the community as a whole. One of my favorite assignments is one in which students discuss science issues with their parents. This has resulted in not only using parents as contributors to their children’s learning, but has resulted in positive parent-teacher relationships when working with students of special need. I have reached out to communities by partnering with nuclear power plant personnel for a problem-based learning unit, and by implementing content from local fire fighters about the science of their profession. Last year, I received a grant for a classroom set of literature, Story of Science, to use as an historical resource to provide a context to many physics topics, and to enhance reading skills. I also aim to extend my influence as a teacher beyond my classroom. Three years ago, I collaborated with a colleague to develop a new, inquiry-based curriculum for our Physical Science course. Those efforts resulted in three additional teachers using the materials in their courses. This past summer, I worked with the Laboratory School of Science and Technology in Naperville to teach mechanics to 24 middle school students. Not only did I help prepare students for high school physics, but the course materials I developed were placed onto an online Wikispace for my colleagues in LSST to access – a number of teachers have used my resources to supplement their own teaching as well.

Question 3:

When I was a student of Thomas Holbrook, 1997-1998 Physics Teacher of the Year, I was impacted by Holbrook’s ability to help me see physics in “everyday phenomena.” It is this that I aspire to do with my own students. The following demonstrate this:

One student e-mailed me a video she had taken around the dinner table. The dinner had been served on a tray, and she noticed the image of her overhead lamp projected through a hole at the tray’s edge. In the video, she demonstrated the inversion of the lamp’s image through the pinhole by blocking out various bulbs with a plate.

Another student e-mailed me a reflection on the nature of science. Including a video of Feynman discussing science, he related this to a quote by Freud: "For I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, nor an experimenter…. I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador—an adventurer...." The student wrote, “The conquistadors were the ones pushing past the boundaries of the known world, just as the scientists of today are pushing past the boundaries of the known world.” He related this to his favorite painting, “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.” He connected physics to history, philosophy, art, and his own life – he graduated considering physics as his minor. His mother wrote, “I want to thank you for inspiring your students. Your class was one of John's favorites. Thank you for your influence in values of a strong work ethic.”

Question 4:

During the summer of 2007, before my first year of teaching, I attended the Chicago ITQ Modeling Method of Instruction (MMI) workshop, a three-week program that enhanced my pedagogical content knowledge and strengthened my ability to teach by inquiry. In the summer of 2008, I participated in approximately one week of 2nd year follow-up to the MMI workshop, as well as attended a three day-long Science of Cell Phones Workshop that has supplemented my class curriculum. In the summer of 2009, I began a 13 month Professional Master’s of Science Education program through the Illinois Institute of Technology (which I completed July 2010), with emphasis on teaching the nature of science and serving as a teacher leader. I helped develop curriculum as an intern at the Woodstock Challenger Learning Center as part of the program. As an active member of the National Science Teacher Association, in the fall of 2009 I was awarded a fellowship in the New Science Teacher Academy, in which I participated in a formal mentoring program with a fellow science teacher and attended a professional development institute at the NSTA National Conference in Philadelphia. I am currently working towards National Board Teacher Certification, which requires detailed written and video analysis of my instructional planning, use of inquiry and discussion techniques, as well as parent-teacher communication and leadership activities. My ongoing involvement has included membership in the ISAAPT, CSAAPT, AAPT, NSTA, and Physics Northwest. I have given presentations or workshops at conferences for all of these organizations.

Question 5:

I have a long history of assisting others in the teaching profession, beginning even before I entered the profession formally myself. While still an undergraduate physics education major, I spent August 2004 to May 2006 as an NSF GK12 PRISM teaching fellow at Illinois State University. I dedicated approximately 10 hours per week to work with 12 middle and high school math and science teachers to develop and implement innovative curriculum, having an impact on more than 1,300 students. In the summer of 2009 I was contracted by Illinois State University as a co-instructor for Physics 489.01: Physical Science for Middle School Teachers in which I worked with seven special education teachers to develop their content and pedagogical content knowledge in physical science. I have given multiple workshops, including “Inquiry in Physics” at the spring 2005 Puebla Physics Teachers’ Conference at the Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, “Investigations in Electrostatics with Benjamin Franklin” at the fall 2009 meeting of the ISAAPT, and “Science of Cell Phones” at the spring 2009 meeting of the CSAAPT. I have given over 15 presentations as well, including at the winter 2009 AAPT conference, the fall 2004 and spring 2006 National Science Teachers Association conferences. I also have three publications, including “Materials Mayhem” (The Science Teacher, 09/10), “Guidelines and Methods for High School Teachers for Encouraging Women in STEM” and “A Generic Model for Inquiry-Oriented Labs in Postsecondary Introductory Physics” (Journal of Physics Teacher Education Online, spring 2008 & spring 2006).

Question 6:

In order to ensure that I am teaching what I am testing, I am careful to ensure alignment between my teaching standards, student activities, and assessments. My physics course is rooted in Inquiry and Design (ILS 11 / NSES 2). In my course, students will never be found doing “cook-book” labs; rather, students will be found asking their own questions to answer, always play a role in designing their experiments, and make and defend their own conclusions. These skills are set in the context of the fundamental Concepts and Principles (ILS 12 / NSES 3) of physics – given the research showing that students learn best with clear expectations, I provide students with daily learning targets. I help students to learn the role of Science in Technology and Society (ILS 13 / NSES 6 & 7) by teaching numerous concepts in context. For example, when teaching about the properties of light, students take part in a number of activities in which they use discovery learning, interactive demonstrations, and inquiry labs to determine the properties of light and relate their evidence to the Newton-Hook debate about light as a wave and as a particle. We discuss how personal relationships and societal norms resulted in the delayed publication of Newton’s studies on light, and relate all of this to the modern day concept of photons. In another unit, we tie together concepts of motion, vectors, and atomic physics when analyzing the historical and political impact of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Question 7:

I regularly incorporate historical perspectives into my course. When teaching about energy, for example, students read historical texts regarding the development of the concept of energy from Newton to du Châtelet to Young. We perform the historic clay ball drop experiment performed by s’Gravesand and use experimental evidence to determine which historical character most accurately defined kinetic energy. As we progress through each unit, I also make use of concept maps, empty “toolboxes” that students fill in as they derive equations and develop concepts. Students regularly mention that these one-page synthesis sheets are the most valuable tools in my course, and become a cumulative “mini-textbook” to take with them to college. I develop a climate of collaboration through the use of Paradigm Partners. At the outset of the semester, students choose with whom they would like to work from their friends, acquaintances, strangers, and their assigned lab partners. As we alternate between labs and activities, students pair up with the appropriate partner. This encourages students to work cooperatively and fosters class spirit. Students also appreciate my use of creative homework assignments. I avoid assigning traditional problem sets for homework – students are often not motivated by this type of homework, and some resort to copying, leading to frustration for both teacher and student. Instead, I assign homework that requires creativity – writing personal stories and making associated motion graphs, creating posters displaying optical atmospheric phenomena and describing it in terms of reflection and refraction, and making and solving their own word problems.



 

7. Jay Walgren, Vernon Hills High School, Vernon Hills

Nomination

Jay Walgren (15 years)
2296 High Point Drive
Lindenhurst, IL 60046
(847)-265-5607
jay.walgren@d128.org

Nomination letter:

As Mr. Jay Walgren's supervisor over the past 5 years, I have had the honor and pleasure of observing him, a master teacher and an outstanding professional. Through his own professional development, accomplishments and teaching innovations Jay is a role model for other educators. He is a school improvement project coordinator for incorporating state and national standards into the science department curriculum, the chosen teacher representative for district's innovative teaching grant committee, a Physics Northwest workshop and national conference presenter and published author. In addition to past recognitions, he was recently published in Mathematics Teacher and The Physics Teacher. Most recently, Jay was named Illinois' winning teacher in the 10th Annual 2007-08 Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement, sponsored by the Siemens Foundation.

Mr. Walgren possesses many outstanding qualities as a teacher, coach, and character educator. He is an outstanding master teacher. Jay demonstrates a strong mastery of the art and science of teaching. He possesses great charisma, ability and creativity that inspires and engages diverse groups of students in his AP Physics B courses to be very successful. Jay is a highly motivated, collaborative, professional, intelligent, and technologically savvy teacher. These characteristics can be witnessed on a daily basis upon interacting with him. From his work on student achievement as a member of the school improvement team to his classroom teaching, one can experience the critical thinking and growth that he cultivates in his students. Furthermore, he shares and instills a strong passion for the love of physics in them. Students in Mr. Walgren's physics courses and extracurricular clubs (e.g. Robotics) have shared very positive and engaging experiences of success. His dedication to encouraging students of all backgrounds is demonstrated by the population of students who choose to enroll in his classes and participate in the activities he facilitates. In 2003 Mr. Walgren coached the first all female team to be selected as one of the top 100 rocket teams in the nation. The team was selected to compete in the national fly-offs of NASA's annual Team America Rocketry Challenge. Mr. Walgren's school robotics club is comprised of a higher percentage of Hispanic students than the percentage of Hispanic students in the whole student body. The percentage of female students taking his AP Physics class is always greater than the national average of female students taking the exam. It is no accident that there is cultural and gender diversity in groups of students participating in science experiences with Mr. Walgren. Both in and out of the classroom, Mr. Walgren is successful in encouraging students to get involved in his Robotics Club, which has always reached a maximum enrollment capacity. Amazingly, Mr. Walgren has students "waiting in the wings" to join.

In closing, as a former adjunct professor, high school principal and current department supervisor, I recognize Jay Walgren as one of the best Physics teachers in the state, if not the country. He is an educational leader for others. I highly recommend him for the Outstanding Physics Teacher Award. If you have any need to contact me, please do not hesitate to do so.

Nominated by:

Tom Chinske, Supervisor
thomas.chinske@d128.org
Nov. 19, 2008

Candidate Information

Jay Walgren (17 years)
2296 High Point
Lindenhurst, IL 60046
847 265 5607
jay.walgren@D128.org
Dec. 31, 2010

Question 1:

Education is a cooperative endeavor that is most successful when students, educators, parents, and the community work in harmony. Because of the ever-changing dynamics of our society, it is imperative that students are academically equipped and self motivated to become lifelong learners. Education also needs to incorporate a variety of experiences and opportunities that encourage students to be self-reliant, and also to be positive contributors in the community. Empowering self-confidence propels a student to succeed to the best of his ability and achieve his educational goals. I believe in the importance of provoking curiosity and providing a positive first experience in scientific exploration.

Learning activities that use real life applications and incorporate multi-modality instruction promote curiosity and encourage discussion. Learning is lively and exciting. It entices creative thinking and the expression of new ideas. Because science is an explanation of the world in which we live, all subject matter is relevant and revealing to my students.

Teachers need to continue to grow by enriching their knowledge of subject matter and best teaching practices. I want to be a lifelong learner who contributes to my community, just as I advocate for my students. I relish updating my physics knowledge by attending seminars and courses, by reading, and by sharing ideas with fellow scientists. Continued involvement in my school and its mission to educate all students, create responsible citizens, and to build a strong sense of self in each individual is my commitment to my school, students and self.

Question 2:

I am an outstanding teacher because I inspire students to be excited about learning physics, I encourage students to challenge themselves, and I identify and help students at risk.

In encourage students who initially have difficulties learning physics and work with them outside of class. During the first weeks of school, it is common to find students getting help from me during every hour that I am not assigned to teach a class. I let these students know that the course work is challenging for everyone and that I believe they are capable. I help them find ways to become more efficient and independent learners.

My class enrollment is always high regardless of how rigorous students know my class will be. I find creative ways to help students understand, get excited about, and appreciate science. For example; I annually dress and perform as a pirate character that I created for a Pirate Vector Lab. I arrange for local professionals to speak to my classes including a Navy nuclear engineer and a robotic engineer. Students know my classroom is welcoming, inclusive, and supportive for all. Learning in my class is lively, exciting, and entices creative thinking.

Question 3:

Last fall I received a letter from the dean of admissions at MIT informing me I had been identified by one of their students as the teacher most influential in her development. Over the years, several parents have told me that my class was a significant influence on their son's or daughter's decision to pursue a science related career and/or to become a high school physics instructor. Three of my former students have become physics teachers and expressed a desire to model their teaching after mine. Before and after class students often stop to share with me how they have observed a physics phenomenon we recently studied. It is not uncommon for students to inform me that after taking my class, physics is now their favorite subject.

My students experience growth and success because I encourage them to participate in new activities and to challenge themselves. For example, in 2009 and 2008 my students won the AAPT division I PHYSICSBOWL contest in both individual and school categories. Also, in 2003 my team of students were selected as one of the top 100 rocket teams in the annual Team America Rocketry Challenge and competed in the national fly-offs. For the past eight years I have facilitated/coached a Robotics club that participates in a program sponsored by Abbott Laboratories. I have become an advisor/consultant to Abbott for this unique program that focuses less on competition and more on students having fun while learning to apply principles of physics.

Question 4:

I enrich my knowledge of subject matter and best teaching practices by staying actively involved in my professional community. I regularly attend the AAPT national winter conference and this year in Jacksonville I am a presenter on the topic of my unique use of clickers during physics labs. I am an active member of Physics Northwest, I regularly attend and present at Physics Northwest meetings including the Tri Physics meeting at Elmhurst College. In the past four years, my colleague and I have hosted two Physics Northwest meetings at our school. I subscribe to and have work published in Physics journals of the AAPT.

I am currently a candidate working through the National Board Certification process and plan to finish this spring. I have maintained my knowledge about new developments in AP Physics by maintaining collaborative relationships with many other AP Physics teachers including AP Physics Exam graders and a current AP Physics Exam table leader. I also have attended many AP College Board workshops and graduate classes. Recently I attended an AP Physics Graduate Class covering modern physics at Carleton College.

Question 5:

I regularly make presentations to other physics teachers, I mentor new teachers, I serve on education committees supporting my school district and I accept frequent requests to be observed by new or aspiring teachers.

I mentor often and recently mentored a new Chemistry teacher. As part of her mentee experience I have introduced her to both Physics Northwest and ChemWest (local Chemistry teacher's group). After assisting me at a Physics Northwest meeting, she now intends to host a ChemWest meeting. As the school improvement project coordinator for the science department, I assist my colleagues in improving student assessment methods and in incorporating state and national standards into the science department curriculum.

I have published in professional journals. In one article I introduce a mathematical method to assist teachers in assigning grades based on learning objectives and mastery of content as opposed to a standardized curve. The article, titled "Don't Curve It, Convert It!," was published by process of peer review in the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics journal, Mathematics Teacher (September 2007). I also co-authored the article "Taking Advantage of Opportunities" in the The Physics Teacher (April 2007). The article promotes AAPT involvement and describes a unique and wonderfully rewarding experience that resulted from attending the AAPT 2007 Winter Meeting.

Question 6:

I create activities and labs where students work together in inquiry based learning, and I create investigative labs inspired by student curiosity. For example, students were interested measuring the force from their model rocket using classroom lab computers. I welcomed the idea and created a lab where my students work in teams to devise experiments that determine engine impulse from model rockets they launch during lab.

I use multiple methods to gather data about students understanding and ability. I analyze assessment data to guide my teaching. I use an advance analysis program that gives me a variety of specific data on my student assessments. I choose to get involved educational activities that are, by design, accessible to all students regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or socio-economic background. As mentioned earlier in item 5, I am the school improvement project coordinator for the science department and participate in the ongoing planning and development of the school science program.

Question 7:

The following is a sampling of some of my teaching innovations.

I devised a unique method using clickers to electronically capture student's lab data as they are performing a physics lab. It is the topic of my manuscript, Innovative Use of a Classroom Response System during Physics Lab, which is being published in the January 2011 issue of The Physics Teacher. I designed and built an AC current demonstration building on and expanding a classic "neon lamp" AC demonstration. A college and I published an article on this demonstration in the Sept. 2010 issue of TPT. Last year I built and wore a Space Shuttle costume for my classes on Halloween. The costume worked perfectly that day for my lessons on the physics of the space shuttle. I also created a low cost adaptor that connects a rocket engine to a Pasco force sensor. I produced enough adaptors to distribute as a "give away" when I presented it at a Physics Northwest meeting at Libertyville High School in 2004. I created a project where my students inquire, investigate and then, design, build and calibrate "low tech/low cost" accelerometers without a kit or material purposely manufactured for constructing accelerometers. Students then use their accelerometers to collect data on roller coasters during an annual Great America field trip. I created a shatterproof accelerometer from a Nutella jar that can be attached to a common Pasco physics cart. I have presented all of these teaching innovations at various physics meeting.