The Physics Secondary education Initiative
at the University of North Georgia
There is a National physics teacher shortage.
Most institutions prepare zero new physics teachers per year.
The severe national shortage of high school physics teachers is due to very low numbers of new teachers educated at US colleges and universities. About two-thirds of institutions with a secondary education program prepared zero high school physics teachers in the last five years. But small increases can make a huge difference!
In Georgia, right now, we need 92 new physics teachers this year and we are only producing 13 per year. That is only 14% of the needs being met. At UNG, we plan to change these data and produce at least 5 highly-qualified physics teachers every year.
To address the National physics teacher shortage, the Department of Physics & Astronomy and the College of Education at UNG are working together to produce more highly-qualified physics teachers.
What makes a highly-qualified physics teacher? Research suggests highly-qualified physics teachers need:
- Physics Content To be effective, a teacher should have completed coursework equivalent to, or more than, an undergraduate minor in physics. (Meltzer, 2019)
- Physics Pedagogy Effective teachers have also completed training in physics-specific pedagogy. (Meltzer, 2012)
At UNG, students can choose the avenue to certification that is right for them. Every avenue provides physics content that is more than an undergraduate minor in physics and multiple early teaching experiences to train students in physics pedagogy.
I want to become a physics teacher because I want to teach and show how interesting physics is and how important it is to understanding why the world works the way it does. Physics can be fun to learn and gives us a better understanding of things in our lives. I also want to inspire students like my physics teacher did with me and open up the possibility of a physics major or even a physics education major.Brandon Urso
I want to be a physics and/or astronomy teacher to inspire kids to wonder and question. I want to encourage students to do what their heart loves while the world discourages it. Thanks to my high school astronomy teacher I learned to wonder again and pursue my interests and I hope to offer that for the next generation of beautiful and complex minds.Lydia Miller
I want to become a high school physics teacher so that I can present math and physics to students in a way that will be enjoyable to them. I feel that our secondary education system has successfully demonstrated to students what we should learn, but fall short in the areas of how we should learn and why we should learn. If these ideas are more established in our students, I believe wholeheartedly that they will find it easier to learn any subject and might even find it more enjoyable once they have begun to establish purpose to their learning. I hope that I will be able to inspire students to think on a deeper level and appreciate what we have discovered about the universe and ourselves so far and effectively communicate that there is still much more to be discovered.Alex Farrell
I am planning on becoming a physics teacher because I want to help inspire the next generation of physics students. Too often, students are discouraged from going into physics due to bad experiences in high school. In becoming a teacher, I hope to do my part in changing that to create a more diverse field overall.Colin Hathaway
My drive for teaching is simple. I want to share my love for science with the world, and I want to reach the scientists of the future no matter what obstacles are put in my way. I remember not being able to do basic arithmetic, and I could not do high school algebra to save my life, let alone anything to do with physics. One day, I had a teacher that showed math and physics in a whole new light, and my dream is to do the same for others. It’s no mystery that there is a negative stigma surrounding physics at the high school level, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I want to convince the future generation to invest in deepening their understanding of physics, and I believe that this is the perfect profession to do just that. There’s no thrill like teaching, especially with such incredible material to learn about. Everyone can be a genius, and I want to do whatever I can to change how future generations think of physics.Andrew Queenan
I never believed I would have ever wanted to focus on the profession of teaching, nonetheless physics, when I first started going to college, but that certainly has changed now. I began with an interest in biomedical engineering and psychology/psychiatry, but that all changed as I started my major classes for engineering including physics I and II and its labs. I spoke with the LAs in the classrooms and experienced the contributions they had to the Physics labs, and not only did they seem to genuinely be enjoying themselves, but they also helped me genuinely enjoy the labs and the learning experience. At the time I was getting burned out as I really didn’t want to become an engineer and this along other things was just the spark I needed. After that I discussed with Dr. Formica about becoming a LA and changing my major, and the rest is now history. Now I am part of the Physics education program and a LA, and I could not be more excited to make a change in the world of physics education and help students want to learn physics!Alex Chastain
Avenues to Teacher Certification
At UNG there are multiple avenues you can take to become a highly-qualified physics teacher and earn your teaching certificate. Depending on your interests and time, you can choose the avenue that is right for you.
Bachelor of Science with a major in Physics
Students will complete this four-year avenue with a B.S. degree in Physics. This avenue provides a variety of early teaching experiences such as physics/astronomy Learning Assistants (LAs), and telescope operators (TOs). Students also have many opportunities to engage in undergraduate research and advanced physics lab and lecture courses.
This avenue is ideal for anyone who is interested in physics and teaching.
To earn teaching certification along this avenue, students can complete a one-year Post-Baccalaureate Initial Teacher Certification Program or teach in a school in Georgia and receive Alternative Certification.
Double major: BS in Physics and Secondary Education
Students will complete this five-year avenue with two B.S. degrees: Physics and Secondary Education, and will be certified to teach. This avenue provides a variety of early teaching experiences such as physics/astronomy Learning Assistants (LAs), telescope operators (TOs), and student teaching. Students also have many opportunities to engage in undergraduate research and advanced physics lab and lecture courses.
This avenue is ideal for anyone who is interested in physics and teaching.
While pursuing a B.S. degree in physics, you will likely engage in undergraduate research. Did you know that teachers can continue to do research after finishing their undergraduate degree? There are opportunities for teachers to engage in research during the summer, usually with a paid stipend and room/board. Check out these Research Experiences for Teachers (RETs): Pathwaystoscience.org
BS in Secondary Education with concentration in Physics
Students will complete this four-year avenue with a B.S. degree in Secondary Education and will be certified to teach. This avenue provides a variety of early teaching experiences such as physics/astronomy Learning Assistants (LAs), telescope operators (TOs), and student teaching.
This pathway is ideal for anyone who is interested in becoming a physics teacher.
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