ISAAPT Outstanding High School Physics Teacher
Candidate Information
2012-2013

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 email your top three choices to Cliff Parker (cparker@charter.net) by Tuesday, February 19, 2013.  Please number your choices.

1. Donald Dickey, Civic Memorial High School, Bethalto
2. Thomas Oelkers, Dunlap High School, Dunlap
3. Bill Sindewald, Batavia High School, Batavia

4. Bart Carbonneau, Neuqua Valley High School, Naperville
5. Matthew Poston, St. Anthony High School, Effingham
6. Mary Quigle, Macomb High School, Macomb
7. Scott Schlapkohl, Alton High School, Alton
8. Rebecca Vieyra, Cary-Grove High School, Cary
9. Robert Lang, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn
10. Pressley "Lee" Piner, Mascoutah High School, Mascoutah

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. 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."



4. Bart Carbonneau, Neuqua Valley High School, Naperville

Nomination

Bart Carbonneau (12 years)
3 South 029 Arboretum Road
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
630-534-4859
bart_carbonneau@ipsd.org

Nomination letter:

As chair of the science department, I have observed and worked with many teachers the last twelve years. Bart Carbonneau ranks as one of the best. He is extremely detail-oriented and is a true professional. Bart teaches AP Physics and honors physics and has been instrumental in the implementation of an inquiry-based approach to instruction. Bart relies on data to make decisions on the time and depth he spends on various concepts. He comes to school early and leaves late. Bart seeks advice and is always looking for ways to improve his methodologies in the classroom. He will do what it takes to complete the task at hand. His determination and sense of urgency are some of the traits that make him an effective educator. His work tremendous ethic is paralleled by few.

Bart's genuine concern for his students and colleagues is always evident. He takes the time to make himself available for students and seeks opportunities to collaborate and learn from his colleagues. I have witnessed him working with students before and after school on many occasions. Bart is always prepared. His lessons are organized and clear. He makes sure objectives are communicated verbally and in writing before a lesson begins. His ability to explain difficult concepts and manage students and materials has made classroom management a non-issue. Bart possesses the trait of "withitness" that enables him to make wise decisions in working with students. Students genuinely like physics because of his style and demeanor. He makes learning fun. His content knowledge is superb and this enables him to creatively design lessons to engage students in learning the many facets of physics.

Nominated by:

Paul Vandersteen, Science Department Chair
paul_vandersteen@ipsd.org
Dec. 17, 2009

Candidate Information

Bart Carbonneau (13 years)
Neuqua Valley High School
2360 95th St
Naperville, IL 60564
630-428-4616
bart_carbonneau@ipsd.org
Jan. 17, 2012

Question 1:

I teach science the way it is done in real life. Start with an investigation (lab), make your conclusions and then enrich your students from that. So, learn by doing. As opposed to sitting there listening to a teacher lecture. (No fun for anyone)

Question 2:

I love to teach Physics. I have a very laid back attitude that the students can relate to. I've learned through experience how a lesson should flow (how and when to ask the right question) I truly enjoy being in the classroom.

Question 3:

I've received numerous emails, phone calls and letters from parents telling me that their son or daughter has decided to pursue a career in Physics!!! We all have the students that want to become Engineers and the like. But to influence a student in this way is something i always take with me.

Question 4:

Master in Curriculum and Leadership National Board Certification Masters of Educational Technology (currently enrolled)

Question 5:

Yes. I've personally trained 3 teachers for Honors Physics. 1 for AP Physics and had a student teacher last year.

Question 6:

Of course. Any good teacher will meet all the standards without even having to directly teach to them.

Question 7:

Innovations? Well, most innovations are really just "tweaks" made to previous philosophies. Modeling for example. We use this methodology in our classes. I've had to modify it to fit into our tight schedule. Rocket Project, Bridge Building Contest, Great America Field Trip, Physics Photo Contest.



5. Matthew Poston, St. Anthony High School, Effingham

Nomination

Matthew Poston (10+ years)
St. Anthony High School High School
304 East Roadway Avenue
Effingham, IL 62401
2173426969
mbposton@stanthony.com

Nomination letter:

Mr. Poston is a dedicated and passionate science teacher, and it is my privelege and responsibility to make sure that he is nominated for the Illinois High School Outstanding Physics Teacher Award. As the Coach of WYSE team, he has led our group to numerous top 5's in the State. Please take a look at his website, which is also a pure indication of his commitment to science excellence...   http://www.mrscienceteacher.com/index.php?page=start&keep_has_js=1 .

Nominated by:

Ron Niebrugge, Principal
rniebrugge@stanthony.com
Dec. 22, 2011

Candidate Information

Matthew Poston (11 years)
St. Anthony High School
304 East Roadway
Effingham, Illinois 62401
217-342-6969
mbposton@stanthony.com
Jan. 8, 2012

Question 1:

Learn something new each day!

Question 2:

I know my subject material and I "push" my students just until their ears begin to bleed.

Question 3:

My students attend the University of Illinois and are usually found in the top 10% of their class in various engineering fields.

Question 4:

I've attended SIUE and taken organic chemistry I and II along with the lab.

Question 5:

No.

Question 6:

I teach what college instructors want their students to know. I provide quality instruction to all using teaching standards as a guide.

Question 7:

I never teach from notes. Each day I walk in "cold" and start lecture. I know my material well and have the respect of all my students.



6. 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 developing trust, discipline, and consistency 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.



7. 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.



8. 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 (5 years)
Cary-Grove High School
53 Pine Ct.
Crystal Lake, IL 60014
(309) 824-8853
rvieyra@d155.org
Jan. 26, 2012

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 make physics relevant to students through connections to their families, their interests, and to the community as a whole. In one of my favorite assignments, students discuss science issues with their parents. I use parents as contributors to their children's learning and this 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. In the past few years, I received two grants for a classroom set of literature, Story of Science and Evolution of Physics, to use as historical resources to provide a context to many physics topics, and to enhance reading skills. I aim to extend my influence as a teacher beyond my classroom. I have 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. In 2010, I worked with the Laboratory School of Science and Technology in Naperville to teach mechanics to 24 middle school students. I helped prepare students for high school physics, and 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. This past fall, I was named an ISTA New Science Teacher of the Year.

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:

In 2007, 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 2008, I participated in approximately one week of follow-up to the MMI workshop, and attended a three day-long Science of Cell Phones Workshop that has supplemented my class curriculum. In 2010, I completed a 13 month Professional Master's of Science Education program through the Illinois Institute of Technology, 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 my degree. 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 an institute at the NSTA National Conference in Philadelphia. In July, I was accepted to and participated in the AAPT Physics Teaching Resource Agent institute, and have been developing a video analysis workshop. In November, I received National Board Teacher Certification, which required 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 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 17 presentations as well, including at the winter 2009 AAPT conference, the fall 2004 and spring 2006 National Science Teachers Association conferences, and the fall 2011 ISEC conference. 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.


Nomination

Robert Lang (6 years)
Glenbard South High School
23W200 Butterfield Rd
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
630-469-6500
robert_lang@glenbard.org

Nomination letter:

Rob is very deserving of this award. He has developed a great physics program at our school, as well as an Engineering Technology program that incorporates a lot of physics. He brings groups of physics students back to his old university (MSOE) every year to introduce them to the careers in physics and engineering. He received his National Board Certification last year, which is quite a feat in itself. He is my co-coach of our Science Olympiad team - greatly helping both our physics and building events.

Outside of our own school, he does a lot of work to help other teachers. He mentors physics teachers nationwide through the AAPT e-mentoring program. He is actively involved in Physics West, Illinois Section of American Association of Physics Teachers, and Chicago Section of AAPT, National Science Teachers Assoication and Illinois Science Teachers Association. Lately, he has been hosting, as well as presenting at local, state and regional conferences in order to help prepare science teachers for Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core - ELA & Math. I feel Rob is very deserving of your IL physics teacher of the year award! If you have any further questions, please contact me.

Nominated by:

Amanda Raymond, colleague
amanda_raymond@glenbard.org
Dec. 14, 2012

Candidate Information

Robert Lang (7 years)
Glenbard South High School
23w200 Butterfield Rd
Glen Ellyn, IL 60517
630-942-6753
robert_lang@glenbard.org
Dec. 31, 2012

Question 1:

My teaching philosophy is very simple: All people are born as natural investigators. Our role, as educators, is to help students find the "spark" that reignites their curiosity. I model this philosophy in my classroom on a daily basis. I make the learning of physics a social enterprise. My students collaborate with each other to find solutions to problems. They communicate their solutions and offer feedback to their peers. They experience real-world applications so that they see the "why" of science. I bring many application problems into my classroom so that students can see why we study physics and how it applies to our everyday lives. I also role model this philosophy by pursuing activities that ignite my curiosity. One example was my participation in the Northwestern University Research Experience for Teachers. In his activity I work in the materials science labs at Northwestern University to collect and interpret data for graduate students working on thin-film semiconductors. I reference that experience frequently in my classroom to show students that curiosity and inquiry are fun parts of our personalities.

Question 2:

In addition to making sure students learn the physics content, I focus on teaching my students skills that will be useful for their lives after high school. I teach my students how to reason and problem solve. I teach my students the skills needed to learn on their own. I focus on these skills so they will be successful after their formal education. As part of their professional lives, they will need to continue learning and these skills will help them do that. I also make the physics content relevant to my students. I include many application-based projects in my curriculum for my students to experience "real world science." I'm the assistant coach for the Science Olympiad team so students can extend their science education beyond the normal classroom. In my AP physics course, I require my students to participate in the AAPT Physics Bowl competition to further their understanding of the fundamentals of physics. I bring my students to college campuses to visit with the physics and engineering departments to learn about potential careers. I also show students how physics is a fundamental part of chemistry, biology and engineering by talking about careers is biomedical and biomolecular engineering. I bring in guest speakers to talk to my students about research they have completed in the fields of physics and engineering. Through all of these activities, I've shown my students that I am dedicated to their learning and that I'm willing to go the extra mile to ensure their success.

Question 3:

My students appreciate physics and engineering more after they've experienced my teaching. My teaching style reflects my philosophy of education. I start out the school year as a traditional teacher, but as the year progresses, I step back and allow my students to take control of their learning. I monitor their learning through questioning techniques and assessments, but everything else is handled by the students. They solve the problems, present solutions to peers and make corrections when needed. They design their lab procedures, collect their data, draw conclusions and determine sources of error together. All of this is done to prepare my students to be life-long learners. I want them to realize that, later in life, they don't need a formal teacher to teach them everything. I want them to feel confident in their ability to teach themselves. I've had many students visit during their college breaks and thank me for the guidance I gave them. They appreciate the fact that I require them to "think" in my classroom and to communicate scientifically with their peers. Many of my students have also pursued careers in STEM fields because of the enthusiasm and encouragement I bring to my classroom. They appreciate and learn from the field trips, guest speakers, extra-curricular opportunities and after-school "geek fests" I provide to them. My students understand that science is fun and interesting.

Question 4:

First, in 2008 I attended a Modeling Method of Physics Teaching summer workshop. In this workshop I learned how to correctly use Socratic questioning and how to embed scientific literacy into my physics and engineering classrooms. From that experience, I now ask my students to develop solutions to problems in groups and use whiteboards as a mechanism to encourage student collaboration. While students are solving the problems and presenting their solutions, I ask clarification and/or extension questions to further their understanding. Second, in 2010-11, I applied for National Board Certification in Adolescent/Young Adult science teaching and was awarded the certification later that year. The application process taught me how to deeply reflect on my teaching and how to scaffold a curriculum to build on students' prior knowledge. Third, I've attended and presented at many of my professional organization meetings (ISAAPT, Chicago Section AAPT, Physics West, Illinois Science Teachers Association, National Science Teachers Association). At these meetings, I've learned new ways to think about science education, new ideas to further student understanding and learned about new resources available for my classroom. Last, I have participated in professional growth activities with a few science colleagues in my department. We've participated book studies, peer observations and small group trainings on various topics including assessment practices, standards-based grading, instructional technology and scientific literacy. Through these activities, I've been able to learn and collaborate with my peers on ways to reach every student in our classrooms.

Question 5:

In my school district, I serve as a new teacher mentor. In this role I help new teachers adjust to our school culture and expectations. I serve as their "point person" for any questions they have regarding policies and procedures. For the new science teachers, I also serve as an instructional mentor. I help them to become better teachers by offering suggestions, being a "sounding board" for their struggles and inviting them into my classroom to observe techniques I use to improve my teaching. I also host student-teachers in my physics and engineering classrooms. In this role, I also serve as a mentor, but my duties are slightly different. I frequently observe their teaching and regularly offer suggestions and ask for their reflections on their lessons. As his/her cooperating teacher, I act as their instructional and career coach. Last, I also mentor new physics teachers through the AAPT e-mentoring program. In this program, I help teachers that are new to physics education learn about best practices and offer suggestions and resources to help them succeed. Through this program, I mentor new physics teachers around the country. I also write articles for consideration of professional journals in an effort to help new teachers improve their practice. Last, for any new physics teacher that I meet, I invite them to attend Physics West, ISPP, ISAAPT and CSAAPT meetings to help them network with other physics teachers.

Question 6:

The Illinois and National standards are in the process of being updated. In my curriculum and instruction, I follow the current standards. I'm in the process of aligning my curriculum and instruction to the Next Generation Science Standards. Even though these standards are not released yet, I have been following their development closely (and studying the Framework for K-12 Science Education) so that I can be sure that I align with NGSS when the final set of standards is released. An article of mine was published in the Jan. 2013 issue of The Science Teacher regarding the preparations teachers can make for NGSS. I have another article being considered for The Physics Teacher. The national and Illinois science education standards focus on content and learning. Of course, I include the required content in my curriculum. But, where I also excel is the inclusion of the inquiry standards in my curriculum and instruction. My entire course is centered around student investigations and collaboration between students. These are standards that not all teachers address. My students learn the content by participation in these inquiry and collaboration parts of the standards. The national and Illinois science education standards are fully embedded in my classroom. As the NGSS is developed, scientific inquiry and literacy are part of the content standards, so I anticipate that my course and teaching techniques will align well with the final product of NGSS.

Question 7:

There are 2 projects I developed that show my passion for real-world applications. First, when my students study Forces and Motion, they learn all of the basics (how to draw a force diagram, how to use Newton's Laws, etc.) After brainstorming some ideas on how I can offer my students an opportunity to apply their learning, I settled on an idea that would also help other students. The students I supervise in my school's Theatre Scene Shop needed a better material to put under their set pieces so the pieces slide easier across the stage floor. I showed my physics students the stage floor and some common set pieces that we slide across the floor. I then cut and painted pieces of wood to resemble the stage floor. My students used those boards, any sensors and the computers to find a material that interacted with the stage floor with the lowest coefficient of friction. The other project that shows my innovation is a cross-curricular project my physics students do with the AutoCAD students. My students are challenged to design a timing device that relies on a steel marble dropping 10 inches in exactly 5.0 seconds. After they're finished with their design, they communicate their design to the AutoCAD students who then draw the projects in the CAD program and print them out in our 3D printer. My students' eyes light up when they work on these projects because they get to experience a real world application.


Nomination

Lee Piner (29 years)
Mascoutah High School
1313 W. Main St.
Mascoutah, IL 62258
6185668523
pinerl@mascoutah19.k12.il.us

Nomination letter:

It is my extreme honor to nominate Lee Piner as the Illinois Outstanding High School Physics Teacher. I have known Lee as a colleague for 8 years. Lee is the type of teacher that has a lasting impact on his students long after they have left his classroom. As a Physics teacher Lee is able to translate his curriculum to his students in a way that relates the information to the real world. He is an inspiring teacher who understands that what he does each day has a lasting impact. Lee never takes a class period for granted. Lee uses research-based methods in his classroom and continually improves upon his knowledge base as his career continues.

Lee is a leader amongst his peers and has taken strides in making sure that his peers are best prepared no matter what their content area. Lee has a special interest in reading methods and has taken on the task of improving our students' ability to comprehend what they read in both his classroom and throughout their day. Lee understands that the ability to be a high-level reader has a far bigger impact than just in the Language Arts classroom. Lee is a leader in the field of Physics and the field of education. It is my honor to work alongside him and have the chance to nominate him for this award!

Nominated by:

Ryan Wamser, Assistant Principal
wamserr@mascoutah19.k12.il.us
Dec. 20, 2012

Candidate Information

Pressley "Lee" Piner (28 years)
Mascoutah High School
1313 West Main Street
Mascoutah, IL 62220
618.304.0257
pinerl@mascoutah19.k12.il.us
Jan. 31, 2013

Question 1:

My philosophy of teaching can be summed up pretty succinctly -- Teach the children, not the subject. For students to have an understanding of any subject, a teacher must work to help the students to make connections between that subject and the students' lives. In some sense, physics is one of the easiest subjects to teach because connections can be pointed out and experienced throughout students' lives.

In terms of science teaching specifically, my philosophy is that we must have a mix of background knowledge and applications to have a full understanding of the world around us. In the past, this has meant that the teacher was the purveyor of this knowledge. In today's world, however, students have access to so many resources that the role of the teacher has evolved and is evolving. So, in the end, my philosophy is that teachers must be facilitators that supply the structure that students need to gain full understanding of the subject.

Question 2:

I am an outstanding physics teacher because of the philosophy stated above. I recognize my students are people and treat them that way. I work to make my classroom one that students can feel free to learn and to make mistakes. I recognize that different students will have different strengths and weaknesses. I work to give students experiences that will give them a deep understanding of physics concepts. This is best accomplished through a mix of a variety of activities including laboratory work, virtual laboratory work, discussions, reading, and writing.

Question 3:

I am proud that I have a great number of students who have pursued degrees in the sciences or engineering and now work in careers related to those areas. Two of my favorite times of the school year are just before Christmas break and just before school gets out because this is when former students return to visit me. They provide valuable input on what was useful to them and also what was not.

Another thing that I am proud of is what was dubbed "The Physics Curse" by one of my students. The Physics Curse is when you experience a phenomenon and you start thinking of the physics of the situation. An example one of my students gave was when she walked outside after a snowfall and realized how quiet it was. She then found herself explaining to herself about the sound-insulating properties of the snow cover.

Question 4:

I have taken part in workshops offered by the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Chemistry Department. In addition to workshops for chemistry teachers (which I have attended), they offer workshops for physics teachers, biology teachers, and middle school science teachers.

I also completed a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction through the American College of Education. This program has been transformative for me as a teacher. I also started a degree in Educational Leadership through the same institution, which I have had to put on hold because of family circumstances.

Question 5:

In 2011, I organized a professional book study group in my building. We have studied books on Literacy (I Read It But I Don't Understand It by Cris Tovani) and on education reform (Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning by Mike Schmoker). We will be studying Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach this Spring. In that role, I have organized the group, prepared for the group study, and lead the discussion. It has been very beneficial for all and I have received much praise for it.

I have also presented workshops to the entire faculty on topics as diverse as how technology is transforming our classrooms and using formative assessments. I have also lead discussions with the members of my department on issues such as the seemingly every-changing Learning Standards -- including, most recently, the Next Generation Science Standards.

I have been cooperating teacher for three student-teachers over the past several years and have also hosted several student observers. I have also been asked to present to pre-service teachers on using technology in the classroom. In addition, I have served as faculty mentor for all new science department staff since my appointment as Science Department Chairman in 1994.

Question 6:

I have been at the forefront in my school in keeping up with the Learning Standard to which we are held accountable. I was fortunate to serve on a content validity study of the old high school Illinois Standards Assessment Test (ISAT), which gave me valuable insight into that test and the Standards integrated into it. I think that experience has helped me understand the current Prairie State Achievement Exam better. I have also been involved with an ACT prep program for the past 25 years through my school.

However, I do not think that what I teach should be driven solely by what is on those tests. The Standards are an essential tool in deciding what our curriculum consists of, but I think that the professional judgment of local teachers is equally important. I welcome the push to produce Standards that are more reflective of authentic science, and I think it has the potential to drive significant reform in how we educate.

I would say that I have used the Standards as guidelines to make modifications to both my classroom teaching as well as changes to the department curriculum, starting with their initial formation in the 1980s. I implemented changes to our course sequences in the mid-1990s to reflect the goals. I helped develop a course in Earth Science, so we could insure those Standards were being taught. I have led curriculum reviews in my department to make certain that all Standards are addressed in our course offerings.

Question 7:

One particular innovation that I am proud of is what I call my "Quarter Projects." These were originally developed through my desire to address the ILS. The first project is "A Personal View on the Pace of Change of Technology." In this project, students develop interview questions regarding how technology has changed since the time their parents were in high school. They then conduct the interview and write a paper on their findings. It is an eye-opening experience for the students!

The second project is "Physics and Literature." For this project, students choose a novel, read it, and then write about the physics concepts in it. They must choose five concepts and write about how the concept is used, especially whether the concept is used correctly. This project earned praise from the local city library.

Two other projects involve designing experiments. In one, students design an experiment having to do with a topic in mechanics of their own choosing. They must design and write it in such a way that other students can actually complete it. Those students then do complete the experiment and provide their own evaluations of it. In the other experimental design project, students do individual research on environmental or other earthly phenomena, and then get into a small group and design an experiment that is somehow related. This was designed to address those Standards having to do with Environmental Science, which our students do not otherwise have any exposure to since their freshman year.