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UC’s Teacher-In-Residence Program Realized with PhysTEC Grant

The PhysTEC grant's first teacher at UC has been hired to help develop partnerships and increase the number of physics teachers in the region. The cross-college program at UC will develop a national teacher-preparation model.

Date: 4/3/2014 12:00:00 AM
By: Pamela DeCoste
Phone: (513) 556-2021

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In June last year, the University of Cincinnati was one of three sites nationally to be selected as a top-awarded 2013 PhysTEC-funded institution. The University will be awarded a $300,000 grant during the course of three years for the Colleges of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH), the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), and the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) to develop a national model to prepare highly qualified middle school and high school physics and physical science teachers.

As part of the plan to help realize this objective, a Teacher-In-Residence program has been developed and John Rowe, a physics teacher from the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), has been hired for the temporary position.

Rowe, a graduate of UC’s School of Education, has 28 years of physics teaching experience and taught at Clark Montessori and Hughes High School (before it became Hughes STEM High School) prior to landing at the School for Creative and Performing Arts.

“I like finding a hook that gets kids interested in finding things out for themselves,” he said of teaching. “I started out as a physics major here and decided that maybe research wasn’t what I wanted to do. A summer experience working with younger children gave me the idea to combine my dual interests in physics and teaching.”

In addition to teaching experience, Rowe has gained significant leadership experience within the CPS district that is serving him well in this new position, where developing relationships and partnerships is essential in moving forward key components of the PhysTEC grant. Rowe acts as a liaison between UC and area schools, navigating large school systems and creating new opportunities for current and future physics teachers.

PhysTEC reports that two-thirds of the nation’s new physics teachers lack a college-level physics degree. To help address this deficit and the lack of high quality physics instruction, part of Rowe’s role will include recruiting students to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics (A&S) or engineering (CEAS), plus a teacher licensure (CECH). The program also will recruit students participating in the new, CEAS five-year ACCEND program, in which students can earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in education, plus teacher licensure.

Just as Rowe realized a career in teaching physics would suit him better, he hopes to help physics students understand the wide range of opportunities available to them. Consequently, among other initiatives, Rowe helps coordinate a brown bag lunch series where physics students get to know their professors on a personal level and learn about their career paths.

“I’m also looking for project ideas that can extend across area schools to create inter-school collaborations,” Rowe said. “These projects, developed with the help of our physics teacher network, will help us generate student interest in physics-related career options as well as serve as a powerful professional development experience for the teachers involved.”
Similarly, Rowe has also been involved in recruiting and supporting learning assistants who help UC faculty make large lecture courses more interactive – so potential future teachers can gain experience teaching and aiding students before becoming part of CECH’s teacher licensure program.

Kathleen Koenig, a UC associate professor with a joint appointment between science education (CECH) and the Department of Physics (A&S), who is the principal investigator on the grant, is pleased with the progress being made on the project.

“I had heard how valuable it is to have a teacher on board to inform what we are doing, but John’s presence and work has been more impactful than I expected,” she said. “John’s constructive feedback combined with the network of physics teachers that he’s developed has been instrumental to our progress.”

Within the School of Education, students pursuing elementary education are now required to take a physics course. Rowe developed the curriculum and taught the course this year.

“In the past, elementary education students had options and would not take a physics course only to find out they should have taken the course and should have an understanding in the subject,” Rowe said.

By helping improve the quality of physics instruction – including the development of new physics courses to provide models of best teaching practices for future teachers – the project will help improve the pool of future physics teacher applicants for school systems. Rowe credits his district's administration with having foresight and a desire to collaborate with community partners, enabling him to take on this role for the grant.

Rowe has developed a network of physics teachers across the Cincinnati tri-state area while fostering professional development opportunities and joint projects. “Often, physics teachers are the only ones in the building teaching the subject,” said Rowe. “They don’t have anyone with whom they can collaborate or share ideas. Being able to reach out to other physics teachers in the region is a powerful thing.”

Rowe’s role as a relationship builder to cultivate even stronger ties between UC and Cincinnati tri-state area schools is an exciting component of the project – and one that aims to benefit the area in multiple ways.