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Physics Teacher Education Program Receives Top Recognition


The Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences was once again entered into the The 5+ Club — the highest award available for teacher preparation from the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC). The Department received this impressive recognition for graduating five qualified physics teachers during the academic year 2019-2020, putting Stony Brook in the 99th percentile of all US colleges and universities with physics teacher preparation programs. 

Teaching“Stony Brook University has been established as a regional leader in physics teacher education in the United States, given our recent success in achieving recognition in the PhysTEC 5+ Club in six of the past seven years,” said Angela Kelly, associate professor in the Department of Physics and associate director of the Institute for STEM Education. “This places SBU as one of the top nine producers of physics teachers nationwide. The MAT Physics Program collaboration between the Department of Physics and the Institute for STEM Education has established a rigorous focus on disciplinary preparation, clinical practice and reform-based pedagogy.”

This exciting news arrived in the midst of a severe nationwide shortage of physics teachers. In its 2014 report, the American Association for Employment in Education found that the teacher shortage in physics is number one among 59 education fields. As PhysTEC reports, of the approximately 3,100 teachers who are new to teaching physics each year, only about 1,100 (35 percent) have a degree in physics or physics education. 

“Stony Brook University has a long rich history of physics teacher education and is one of the largest producers of physics teachers in the country,” said Keith Sheppard, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and director of the Institute for STEM Education. “The physics teachers become certified at the University through a longstanding partnership between the Physics and Astronomy Department and the Institute for STEM Education.”

“Why are we so good at placing physics teachers?” asked Robert McCarthy, professor in the Department of Physics and the undergraduate and graduate advisor for Physics Science Education. “The reason is simple. Our students graduate with a BS in Physics from Stony Brook, so they actually know physics. Many physics teachers from other universities are education majors.”

Stony Brook’s physics teacher program is exemplary not only in terms of the number of graduates, but also in terms of the quality of education offered. “A unique aspect of the preparation that the SBU physics candidates receive relates to the University’s strong emphasis on physics research and the connection to Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL),” explained Linda Padwa, associate director of the Science Teacher Preparation Program and co-coordinator for the NYS Master Teacher Program cohort that is housed at SBU. “The experience that candidates gain by doing physics research helps them to develop into stronger physics teachers. In addition, the experience that candidates gain by working with faculty as TAs in the undergraduate physics program at SBU contributes to the strength that they eventually bring to their high school classes when they begin their careers as teachers. The SBU Physics Teacher Preparation Program provides an excellent blend of physics content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge for teaching physics, along with the opportunity to be part of physics research teams on campus and at BNL.” 

PhysTEC is a partnership between the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers. Since 2001, PhysTEC has helped universities transform their physics teacher education programs into national models.

The Science Teacher Preparation Program at Stony Brook University is committed to excellence in science teaching and learning, offering a palette of coursework, clinical practice, seminars and special projects that prepares students to assume teaching positions in grades 7-12. The program includes three options that lead to New York State teacher certification: undergraduate, graduate, and combined undergraduate and graduate degrees. Areas of science certification include biology, chemistry, earth sciences and physics. For more information, visit the Science Teacher Preparation Program website

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