About the author
Andra Liwag serves as director of communications for the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
"It means we are making an immediate positive impact on the education of thousands of students by teaching and preparing the highest caliber of future physics teachers for classrooms across the nation."
– Julio Gea-Banacloche, chair of the Department of Physics
by Andra Liwag
Only 12 universities in the nation – including the University of Arkansas – are being recognized this year by the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) for graduating five or more well-prepared physics teachers in the past academic year.
Recent estimates by the organization indicate that less than half of all high school physics courses are taught by a well-qualified teacher with a degree in physics. Universities like the U of A that are striving to reverse this trend are being inducted into the group's 5+ Club.
"Having our Physics Department recognized in this way is a huge accomplishment," said Julio Gea-Banacloche, professor and Physics Department chair at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. "It means we are making an immediate positive impact on the education of thousands of students by teaching and preparing the highest caliber of future physics teachers for classrooms across the nation."
PhysTEC is a partnership between the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers aimed at improving the education of physics educators. The group mostly focuses on the high school level, because of a growing shortage of high school physics teachers in the United States.
According to PhysTEC, most universities graduate two or less qualified physics teachers each year, so members of the 5+ Club are truly making a major impact on this problem.
"In fact, according to the AAPT, the most common number of qualified physics teachers graduated by American institutions per year is zero," said Lin Oliver, associate professor and vice chair of the Physics department. Oliver said he found this statistic particularly startling and alarming.
Additionally, Oliver said being a part of PhysTEC's 5+ Club correlates strongly to the U of A's UATeach and MAT programs, each of which combine a degree in science or mathematics with an in-depth teacher preparation curriculum to help fill the shortage of Arkansas secondary teachers in STEM subject areas.
"UATeach prepares the next generation of STEM instructors and our graduates earn their teaching certification in math or science, along with their degree in Fulbright College," said Oliver, who also serves as a senior advisor for UATeach. "Being inducted into a group like the 5+ Club validates our teacher preparation programs and our university's commitment to preparing the best teachers for schools in Arkansas and beyond."
About the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences: The J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences is the largest and most academically diverse unit on campus with 19 departments and 43 academic programs and research centers. The college provides the core curriculum for all University of Arkansas students and is named for J. William Fulbright, former university president and longtime U.S. senator.