red Supported Site Virginia Tech: Teacher-In-Residence


  • Forty-four people (faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and post-docs) attended guest speaker presentations on teaching and learning, organized by the TIR.
  • The guest speakers in the Physics Teaching and Learning class offered incredibly interesting and useful insights into teaching physics from a psychological, acting, culturally responsible, and neuroscientific perspective.
  • A total of 20 people (faculty, students, and teachers, including alumni) attended the Physics Teacher Day, organized by the TIR, in the first and second years.
  • The Enriched Physics Outreach students found their teaching experiences during this course to be even more meaningful than their experiences in our standard Outreach course.
  • During the 2013-14 year, the TIR arranged a colloquium by Andy "Superfly" Rundquist of Hamline University. Andy spoke to a mix of faculty and students from the Physics Department and the School of Education about physics teaching and learning. Approximately 70 people participated in this event. In addition, the department held three education brown bags with a total of about 40 participants.
  • The TIR created a recruiting poster to display in the hallways of the physics building and the SPS lounge.


  • Finding a time to get high school teachers together is extremely difficult. Many of them have very busy schedules and would prefer not to travel or attend workshops during the weekend. We need to find a way to encourage attendance and then make sure the workshop is invaluable.
  • Students in Enriched Physics Outreach wanted to focus more on high school level lesson planning and outreach visits.


  • Institutionalizing and sustaining the TIR position beyond the initial three years will greatly enhance the sustainability of the PhysTEC program.

Lessons Learned

  • Because we have so many more students interested in physics teaching, we struggled to find enough cooperating teachers. We need to work harder in making connections early and showing the teachers the value of having student teachers.
  • Schedule more Enriched Physics Outreach work with high school level teachers and students.
  • Adding information about teacher salaries and working conditions to the TIR presentation revealed that students had misconceptions about both of these topics.

List of TIRs over the Project

  • 2 years served: Alma Robinson - BA Physics, Virginia Tech, 2002, Masters of Education, 2003. Physics Teacher at Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA.
  • 1 year served: Mary Norris-BS Geophysics, Virginia Tech, 1984, MA Curriculum and Instruction, 2002. Physics Teacher at Salem High School in Salem, VA.

Finding and Hiring a TIR

  • Consider graduates that have become teachers.
  • Consult physics teachers already cooperating with the School of Education.

Typical TIR Activities

  • The TIR developed and taught two new courses:
    • Enriched Physics Outreach, a three-credit course similar to our current outreach program, but the undergraduates plan lessons according to the curricular needs of the K-12 teacher. (eight students)
    • Physics Teaching and Learning, a two-credit course for undergraduate or graduate students interested in physics pedagogy and/or physics education research. (six students)
  • The TIR wrote the course proposal for institutionalizing PHYS 2404 Physics Outreach.
  • The TIR served on the PhysTEC advisory board meeting in January 2012.
  • The TIR attended the PhysTEC and AAPT meetings in Ontario, CA, in February 2012. The TIR co-presented a talk on outreach in STEM.
  • The TIR attended the AAPT meetings in summer 2012 and winter 2013. The TIR presented a talk at the summer meeting and a poster at the winter meeting.
  • The TIR hosted the "PhysTEC Physics Teacher Day at Virginia Tech" in March 2012, and May 2013. We invited teachers from all over Virginia to come to campus and participate with our students in a make-and-take activity, a share-a-thon, and a colloquium given by one of the physics professors.
  • The TIR visited Towson University to observe their PhysTEC program, speak with their TIR (Jim Selway), and visit a local high school which works with their program, in 2012.
  • The TIR presented a poster at the School of Education, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) visit to Virginia Tech, 2012.
  • The TIR worked closely with the School of Education by attending interviews with clinical faculty candidates as well as meetings for the NCATE visit, 2012.
  • The TIR observed and mentored PhysTEC students during their student teaching as well as their roles as physics Graduate Teaching Assistants, 2012, 2013.
  • Under the direction of the TIR, the Physics Teaching and Learning students presented a panel discussion, "What Every Physics Teacher Should Know," during a physics department brown bag faculty teaching-lunch (15 attendees- faculty, post-docs, and graduate students), 2012.
  • The TIR attended a series of Virginia Tech Faculty Development Courses dedicated to "Strategies for Mindful Learning." Not only did these courses add to the arsenal of student-centered, active engagement teaching strategies, but it provided an opportunity for the TIR to network with other faculty members involved in higher education pedagogy research and practice, 2012.
  • The TIR performed a "Science Spectacular" demonstration show at a local theatre for their "Girls Can Do Anything" event, 2012.
  • The TIR was interviewed for a student-run Virginia Tech engineering magazine which highlighted the PhysTEC program, 2012. (
  • The TIR helped review Physics And Instructional Resources APS proposals, 2013.
  • The TIR served on the review committee for the AAPT Next Generation Science Standards, 2013.
  • The TIR served on the Science Education Clinical Faculty Search Committee, School of Education, Virginia Tech, 2013.
  • The TIR attended the New Media Faculty Development Seminar, Virginia Tech, 2013.
  • The TIR taught a class on "Making Science Fun" to REU students working in the Engineering School at Virginia Tech, 2012, 2013.
  • The TIR taught Physics Teaching and Learning, Enriched Physics Outreach, and Foundations of Physics during the 2013-14 year. Because Foundations of Physics was a common course taught by both Instructors and Faculty, the TIRs (both Mary and Alma) interacted with Faculty during both planning and implementation of the course.
  • The TIR created a list of all local physics teachers and sent emails with new resources and opportunities to this list throughout the 2013-14 year.
  • The TIR served on the Textbook Selection Committee (2013-14).
  • The TIR presented posters at the following meetings: Mid-Atlantic Association of Science Teacher Educators, American Association of Physics Teachers Winter Meeting, Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, and Connections Conference.
  • The TIR co-presented two workshop sessions at the Virginia Association of Science Teachers Meeting, 2013.
  • The TIR conducted a virtual focus group with PhysTEC alumni.
  • The TIR tutored undergraduate physics students.
  • The TIR spoke to prospective undergraduate students during their campus visits.
  • The TIR observed and mentored both the current MAEd student and the new local physics teachers. She also mentored PhysTEC alumni.
  • The TIR had numerous informal conversations with physics faculty about teaching and learning.
  • The TIR spoke to freshman physics majors about the PhysTEC program at Virginia Tech (Fall 2013) and about the life of a high school physics teacher (Spring 2014).
  • The TIR advised students who are interested in high school physics teaching. She also created a list of these students and shared information about early teaching opportunities and scholarship programs with them.
  • The TIR researched the Noyce scholarship program by meeting with faculty in the Mathematics Department who had just implemented a Phase II grant and conveying their experiences and advice to PI John Simonetti.