Associate Professor, Physics
My favorite thing about teaching Physics is showing students that it is, literally, everywhere, perhaps to their chagrin! But what I enjoy most in-classroom is getting to know my students and learning about their lives in the ways that have little to do with college life.
That said, it is quite difficult to pick any one student who totally changed how I understand my job as a teacher – but let’s pick on one student, whom I shall call John. I met John not in a classroom setting, but when I was tutoring Physics in our former Academic Resource Center. He was a driven student, to an extent perhaps not healthy – the sort who might forsake eating and sleep until an assignment was finished. I especially got to know him through his involvement with The Early College robotics team, where he was an eager jack-of-all-trades helping with design, construction, and even our public relations effort, such as it was! I eventually helped him acquire a (temporary) job in his scientific field of focus, helped him understand some of his new tasks as he read through my doctoral thesis (my graduate school advisor was amused), and he still sends me the occasional Physics question by tweet. It has been good to see him doing well.
What did I learn from working with him? Perhaps better to ask what he made me remember – we have many experiences in life that don’t exactly teach us something new, but do bring to our minds something important we already know, and that also is valuable. I remember the founder of Khan Academy saying on one occasion that he was surprised to discover how much interest there was out there from people who just wanted to learn. John met with me outside of class to talk about stuff that had nothing to do with class – take note, sometimes jaded teachers! Our experiences with the robotics team (for all those students) were a visual testament to the excitement generated by comprehensive education, and his employ was obtained through community connections, both things community colleges strive for. Seeing him continue in academic life over several years now, I have watched some of the weaknesses I noticed when we first met disappear, while aptitudes have strengthened. It has been my pleasure to know him.