Biographies: Western Michigan University

Dale Freeland, 2002-2003

FreelandDale Freeland grew up on a Michigan fruit and dairy farm. He attended a one-room, K-6 school that had an average of 17 students. After graduation from Kent City High School, he attended Western Michigan University and graduated with majors in physics and mathematics. His first high school assignment in 1973 involved teaching physics and physical science in a rural setting of Paw Paw, Michigan. In 1993 he took a teaching position at Portage Central High School where he currently teaches physics, International Baccalaureate Physics, and Computer Electronics.

Dale participated in four NSF projects and each has been influential on his teaching and workshop presentations: Physics Teaching Resource Agent (PTRA) program in 1987, Operation Physics (OP) in 1988, Constructing Physics Understanding in a computer supported environment (CPU) in 1995, and in PhysTEC, as Western Michigan University's Teacher in Residence for 2002-03. Each of these projects led to more professional growth and involvement. Dale served as an officer in the Michigan Section of AAPT and was on the Michigan State Science Teachers Association board for several years.

He has continued his involvement in the PhysTEC project after returning to his high school teaching position by mentoring beginning physics and physical science teachers. He encourages all of them to become actively professionally, to learn, to share, and later to present and to encourage other teachers through professional involvement. Dale says that he has undergone continuous growth through interaction with many educators in professional interactions. He credits Dr. Robert Poel for encouraging him as an undergrad to get started with professional involvement through conference attendance. Dale has been an adjunct professor at Western Michigan University since 1989 and regularly attends and presents at science teacher and physics teacher conferences. Most recently he delivered an invited talk describing his mentoring activities at the AAPT 2006.

Gene Wood, 2003-2004

WoodI grew up in a small town on the Illinois River, Seneca, Illinois. We had no science at all K-8 so my first introduction to science was general science in the 9th grade followed by biology 10th grade, chemistry-11th grade, and physics-12th grade. As I look back on it, the physics curriculum was actually quite innovative for a small town in the 50's. It was on film. Each day the teacher, who was also the principal, would bring a 30 min. film which we watched and wrote up the labs for the next day. The teacher on the films was Harvey E. White, a leader in physics education reform at that time. Each lesson was short and self contained; the experiments emphasized discovery rather than confirmation of previously learned information. Of course, I wasn't aware on any of that at the time. My senior yearbook has my pet peeve as-physics films and the class will has me willing my physics book to another student.......indications of things to come.

I worked one year after high school at Caterpillar Tractor Co. to earn money to attend college. I attended Illinois Wesleyan University one year, ran out of money, moved to the University at the other end of University Avenue in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois State Normal University on a full tuition scholarship. I graduated from ISU (the NORMAL had been dropped as the university had gone multipurpose) in August 1964 with a Physical Science major. The same month my wife Vivian and I moved to Parchment Michigan and I began teaching physics, chemistry, and physical science at Parchment High School. June of this year I retired from Parchment High School after 39 years of teaching 37 of them in the same classroom. Two years ago we built a new science wing on the high school so I was in a new room the last two years.

Viv and I have three children, all grown, educated in the Parchment Schools (Its fun having your own kids in class. They can't tell you that they don't have homework to do.), and all college graduates with advanced degrees. We have one granddaughter.

As the public knows: "Teaching is a cushy job....teachers have all summer off!" As teachers know-summer is when the teacher gets a majority of his/her education. For my graduate work I spent four summers at University of Minnesota attending a NSF Summer Institute in Physics directed by Dr. Russell Hobbie. [Michael W.- I was there '69 -'72. Were we there at the same time?] I worked for the Upjohn Company for over a dozen summers in a variety of positions: chemical production, chemical research and development, and chemist in animal health R&D. This was in invaluable experience allowing me to keep current with the newest and best research techniques and equipment.

Not many high school teachers can have the privilege to say that he has synthesized compounds that no other person in the world has made before. This also allowed me to keep current as to what skills and knowledge industry wanted its new employees to have and therefore what was important for my students. Experiences like working at Upjohn also allows one to make other interesting comparisons such as having more money available for equipment and supplies for one person to set up and run a research lab in an industry for a 12 week summer position than is available for the same person to equip and run labs for 120 science students each year for 5 years in a public school. I was also chosen a Kellogg Fellow and participated in the Kellogg Teaching/Research Associates Program at Kalamazoo College. Working with Dr. Thomas Smith, I spent two summers synthesizing and characterizing binucleating macrocyclic ligand complexes.

During the summers of 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003 I attended CPU (Constructing Physics Understanding) workshops on Static Electricity and Magnetism, Light and Color, Underpinnings, The Nature of Matter, and Waves and Vibrations taught by Dale Freeland and Dr. Robert Poel at Western Michigan University. I purchased and used CPU software and used inquiry-based, constructivist-oriented teaching/learning strategies in my Physical Science Core, Physics, and Chemistry classes at Parchment. I learned of PhysTEC from Dr. Poel during the CPU workshops. I was invited to be a member of the WMU PhysTEC Teacher Advisory Group and attended both the first and second meeting of this group. I ran into Dr. Poel at the Michigan Science Teacher's Association Convention this spring and he suggested that I apply for the TIR position. I told him that I was planning on retiring at the end of the school year but he suggested that I should apply anyway. It turns out that the person that Parchment has hired to replace me is a recent graduate of WMU with a chemistry major and a physics minor. What a wonderful mentoring opportunity!

Bill Semrau, 2004-2005

SemrauBill's passion for teaching began back in elementary school where he helped teach reading to the students in younger grades. As he worked with local Boy Scout troops this career choice was further confirmed through the joy of sharing information with others and the satisfaction of helping them gain skills and knowledge.

As an undergrad student at Western Michigan University he researched ways to improve science education by teaching concepts through applications. His honor's thesis paper is titled "A High School Physics Program Stressing Application to Concept Instead of the Traditional Concept to Application Approach."

After a one-year stay in a local high school, he was offered a position to develop and implement an applied science program in a number of vocational training classes at the Van Buren Intermediate School District's Technology Center in Lawrence, MI.

For the past decade he has identified Physics concepts that are used in 15 different career fields ranging from Manufacturing, CADD-CAM, and Construction to Automotive, Visual Imaging, and Law Enforcement.

His experience has shown that students from a diverse range of abilities are able to solve very complicated multi-step problems when the concepts are delivered in an application-based setting that is relevant to the students.

Much of his Masters Degree in Science Education was earned working with area teachers and professors looking at ways to improve science education through building stronger conceptual understanding for students. Some of this work was helping pilot and evaluate San Diego State University's "Constructing Physics Understanding (CPU)"project.

Bill joined the PhysTEC project immediately as an advisory member and is very enthusiastic to have been selected to serve as Western Michigan University's Teacher In Resident for this upcoming year. He looks forward to bringing in many examples of physics concepts from the industrial/career settings better prepare those entering both into the engineering field and teaching profession.

Drew Isola, 2005-2007

IsolaI began teaching in 1982 having just graduated from Michigan Technological University in Michigan's Upper Peninsula certified to teach both math and physics. My first teaching job was in a small private school in center-city Philadelphia, quite a change from the shores of Lake Superior to the middle of the big city. When my wife finished her graduate work we moved back to Michigan. I completed my M.S. in Science Education at Western Michigan University and started teaching at Allegan High School in Allegan, MI, a small town on the west side of the state not far from the Lake.

I finished my PhD in 1999 and my dissertation was focused on students' mental models and how they are constructed. I have experience teaching at a wide variety of levels in both mathematics and science from AP Calculus & AP Physics to middle school level courses for honors, grade-level and below grade-level students. Over the years I have been very interested in teacher preparation issues so I am excited about being involved in the PhysTEC Project as a TIR. Being a TIR allows me to share some of the lessons learned, from my experiences, with pre-service teachers and beginning teachers who are connected to the Project.

I currently reside in Allegan with my wife and two daughters. Our two sons are grown and off on their own preparing to start families of their own.

Kathy Mirakovits

Visiting Master Teacher, Spring 2011

MirakovitsI am an enthusiastic science educator who is perpetually revising my teaching repertoire to include new (and old) engaging ideas that will spark the interest and creativity of my science students. My philosophical statement to colleagues and students alike is, "If I am not excited about what I teach and how I teach, than how can my students be excited? If I am bored with what I teach, the fault is not the curriculum, not the students, but resides with me. I need to revitalize with new ways to teach science topics. An educator is unique, in that for the most part, he or she has control of what the day will be like, exciting or boring. Not many professions have that kind of control."

For 20 years I have been teaching high school science. My bachelor's degree was from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio with a B.S. in Comprehensive Science Education, certifying me to teach all sciences 7-12. I earned my Masters in Science from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

My first teaching position I remember well. I was assigned general science, earth science, chemistry and physics. Needless to say, as a first year teacher with four preps and a lab to clean up, I was extremely busy. A mentor teacher would have been invaluable for me at that time. Statistics show that the first five years are crucial when it comes to teacher retention. Educators become disillusioned, overwhelmed, and decide that they want a career change. Four years into teaching I was a model of this type of thinking, mulling over the possibility of a career in research. Luckily, the birth of my son and my daughter changed all that. I took ten years off to raise my children, and during that time I enjoyed volunteering in elementary classrooms doing science demos.

After my hiatus, I found that I was excited again about teaching science at the high school. I was a new "old" teacher and had a repertoire of great science demos to bring to my instruction. I have been teaching entry level physics and International Baccalaureate Physics for over 16 years now and enjoy it immensely. Fifteen years ago, in an effort to keep my students interested in science and to show how the physics they learn applies to the "real world", I began dabbling in Forensic Science (all before the onset of the TV Show, CSI). My students loved it and inspired me to develop a curriculum for high school forensic science. Opportunities for growth in this area exploded, and I have developed kits for teachers to use, conduct summer workshops for teachers interested in forensic science, and even co-authored a forensic science textbook.

I am very active in my state science organizations. I am Past President of the Michigan Chapter of AAPT, been a Director at Large for the Michigan Science Teachers Association and am currently serving the MSTA as the High School Director. Annually I present workshops at MSTA, NSTA and have presented papers/workshops at APPT conventions. I have authored documents on physics education for the Michigan Department of Education, specifically the Companion Document on Physics Content Expectations.

I am excited about serving as a Visiting Master Teacher at Western Michigan University for this semester!