PhysTEC prepares students for future as physics educators

 In August 2011, Geneseo received three years of funding as a Physics Teacher Education Coalition targeted site. With this funding, Geneseo will begin to develop their physics teacher preparation program into a national model.

PhysTEC is a national program of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers. It aims to increase the number of qualified high school physics teachers by engaging college physics departments because two-thirds of new physics teachers lack a physics degree.

Through the funding, Geneseo was able to hire a part-time teacher-in-residence, Robert Sells, from Mount Morris High School. Sells has experience teaching in both high school and college settings. As the TIR, Sells will serve as a resource and present physics teaching as an alternative career option to majors.

"I attended a summer workshop with other PhysTEC teachers who told me that they had an uphill battle to convince the departments the importance of the mission," Sells said. "Fortunately, the opposite is true at Geneseo. The department members are supportive and helpful with the program itself."

In recent years, the average number of students graduating from Geneseo with physics majors with an adolescent education certification has been around three. The January 2010 American Institute of Physics' report, "Focus on Physics Undergraduate Enrollments and Degrees," listed Geneseo as the fifth highest institution to award physics bachelor's degrees. Geneseo averaged 20 physics degrees in classes 2005 to 2007, and the highest average was 24.

With the support from PhysTEC, the goal is to double the number of graduating Geneseo physics teachers.

"I'm excited that we're going to be able to support students who want to teach science in the high school because they have the opportunity to have an impact on their students' lives," said physics professor Kurt Fletcher, one of the professors involved in the program.

Physics professor James McLean and education professor Dennis Showers are also involved in the program. Additionally, a Teacher Advisory Board comprised of local and Geneseo alumni physics teachers will be able to provide guidance.

Early Teaching Experiences is another main component of PhysTEC. In addition to the education requirements for an adolescent certification, students will become more exposed to teaching and have more hands-on experience in the classroom.

For example, the Build-it, Leave-it, Teach-it program will allow the students to construct inexpensive demonstration equipment, bring the demonstration to a classroom and present and then leave the equipment at the school as a donation.

Tony Wing, a sophomore physics and adolescent education major has been involved with the PhysTEC program since its installation at Geneseo and received the teaching experience early in his own education.

"The classroom experience of presenting something to a group of students is very rewarding. For me it was a great feeling," Wing said. "You get the experience early on so you know if this is for you. Entering the classroom definitely solidified that I wanted to be a teacher."

There are currently 16 Geneseo students on the PhysTEC mailing list, and those interested can contact professor Fletcher at