UW’s Department of Physics and Astronomy Receives Award for Graduating Students in Physics Teaching

The University of Wyoming’s Department of Physics and Astronomy has received the 5+ Club award for graduating students in physics teaching during the 2022-23 academic year, placing UW among the top 1 percent of institutions nationwide.

The 5+ Club offers national recognition to Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) member institutions that graduate five or more physics teachers in a single academic year. Induction marks a significant contribution toward resolving the severe national shortage of physics teachers and indicates that the institution is a national leader in the production of teachers.

“We received a small PhysTEC grant in 2014 to help recruit more UW students to consider teaching physics at the high school level,” says Danny Dale, the Harry C. Vaughan Professor of Astronomy in the UW Department of Physics and Astronomy. “As part of this effort, I worked with colleagues in the UW College of Education to develop and promote streamlined pathways for students interested in such a career.”

According to Dale, the post-baccalaureate certification program has proven to be particularly popular.

“Students pursuing this 12-month program route can earn a graduate certificate in physics teaching -- or any secondary science -- as long as they already have earned an undergraduate degree in any STEM field,” Dale says. “This flexibility has been able to accommodate a variety of students who decide, partway through their time at UW, that they want to become a secondary science teacher but still want to finish their original degree program.”

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

According to an annual survey of school districts in 2020, the American Association for Employment in Education found “the need for physics teachers is greater than nearly any other subject area.” Data from both the American Physical Society’s Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics and the U.S. Department of Education’s Title II reports show that most institutions with secondary education programs prepared an average of zero physics teachers over the last three years.

The American Physical Society, American Chemical Society, Computing Research Association and Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership surveyed more than 6,000 current and recent U.S. STEM majors, finding that nearly half of the students in those fields have an interest in teaching, including half of physics majors.

According to PhysTEC, it “has helped colleges and universities transform their physics teacher education programs by providing funding, professional conferences, resources and other support. Many of these institutions are now preparing greater numbers of highly qualified teachers of physics and some have become national models.”

As of 2020, PhysTEC has built 67 physics teacher education programs.

“The state of Wyoming has a strong national reputation for supporting K-12 education,” Dale says. “It is important that UW play its role in providing well-qualified high school physics teachers for the state.”

Other institutions that received the award include Brigham Young University, Colorado School of Mines, Rutgers University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Minnesota and West Virginia University.

To learn more about this program’s mission and to view a full list of awardees, visit https://phystec.org/.

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Institutional Communications
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Phone: (307) 766-2929
Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

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