One of Dr. Jess Dowdy’s goals upon entering ACU as a new associate professor of physics this fall was to see ACU’s Department of Physics become a hub for training physic teachers.
“It’s already one of the best physics departments in the world,” Dowdy said. “Why can’t it become one of the best places to train a physics teacher?”
The first step in fulfilling this goal was for the Department of Physics to become a member of Physics Teacher Education Coalition, which accepted ACU’s application in early November, Dowdy said.
According to its website, the PTEC is comprised of 175 learning institutions that are engaged in improving education for physics teachers. It provides a network for institutions to work together in creating better programs and methods for training science educators, Dowdy said.
ACU offered physics majors a teaching track for the first time this year and has just begun informing students on the opportunities in the field of physics education, Dowdy said. He said the PTEC community will help ACU recognize challenges in educating physics teachers and develop ways to overcome them.
The PTEC also offers grants to institutions developing new training programs for science teachers. Dowdy applied for one of the grants in early November and expects to hear back from the PTEC any day, he said.
This grant would aid ACU’s involvement in meeting the nationwide need for physics teachers, said Dr. Rusty Towell, department chair and professor of physics. Nationally, only one-third of high school teachers who teach physics have a degree in physics, Towell said.
The need for physics teachers will only increase, Dowdy said. The growth rate of high school teachers teaching physics from 2005-2009 was lower than the growth rate of students taking physics, according to the November newsletter for the American Institute of Physics.
Schools in Texas will require even more physics teachers than in other states because of a recent increase of required science credits for Texas high school graduates, Dowdy said.
“Two out of three schools are going to need physics teachers,” Dowdy said. “If students become physics teachers, they can go work anywhere they want to.”
Dowdy will also apply for a grant to support a road show he hopes to conduct in January, he said. The Road Show is a service project in which physics students will perform physics demonstrations in a magic-show style for elementary school children. The show will allow students to learn how to excite children about physics through teaching as well as present an opportunity to give back to the community.
“One of the reasons I came to ACU was to get this going for students,” Dowdy said. “Physicists really do want people to study physics.”
More information about PTEC can be found online at www.ptec.org.