Stony Brook University receives fourth
5+ Club Award. "The 5+ Club" is designed to recognize institutions that graduate
5 or more physics teachers in a given year. The great majority of institutions graduate
less than two physics teachers a year, and the most common number of graduates is
Thus, graduating 5 or more physics teachers a year is a significant achievement, helping
to address the severe national
shortage of high school physics teachers
Physics Teacher preparation is thriving on Long Island. Stony Brook University (SBU)
has been awarded a PhysTEC 5+ award for the last three years and is on course to graduate
at least six physics teachers with majors in physics in 2016 -17. SBU is unusual in
that it does not have a Department of Education, and teacher preparation for all of
the sciences is distributed across the various scientific departments in collaboration
with the Institute for STEM Education (I-STEM). The university has enjoyed a strong
partnership between the Physics department, the Institute for STEM Education (I-STEM),
and regional K-12 schools for many years, and that has been integral in its success
in producing physics teachers.
The SBU Physics Teacher preparation program has a long rich history, with Clifford
Swartz, a faculty member of the Physics Department and for 30 years an editor of “The
Physics Teacher”, being integral in its establishment and development. Cliff was legendary
for his innovative lectures and dedication to physics teacher education, and he helped
to train several generations of Long Island physics teachers. Since 1994, when record
keeping began, the university has produced 85 certified physics teachers (60 majors
and 25 minors).
The Physics Teacher preparation programs at SBU are characterized by what we describe
as the “6 C Model”. Most importantly the programs are
. Prospective physics teachers can follow one of three pathways to New York state certification
– an undergraduate route, a graduate MAT route, and a combined BS/MAT route. The
undergraduate route requires completion of a BS degree in Physics. The graduate and
combined routes require the completion of a BS degree in physics plus 15 graduate
credits in physics. With New York State requiring teachers to complete a master’s
degree for the award of a professional license, the vast majority of our Physics teachers
complete the graduate or combined pathway options. All of the physics courses are
taught through the Physics department.
In addition, our programs are
. All program graduates have been exposed to extensive school-based experiences, before
student teaching. Methods courses are taught by highly experienced former teachers.
There are two tenured faculty members who hold physics certification and who have
extensive experience teaching high school physics, one teaches undergraduate physics
courses and the other directs the science teacher education programs. This clinical
richness is enhanced by the demographic factors of the Long Island region. The region
(Nassau and Suffolk counties) is a ‘hotbed’ for physics teaching, with over 250 NY
certified physics teachers teaching in the region’s 108 high schools; this includes
more than 110 teachers who teach AP Physics. For the majority of physics teachers
in the region, physics teaching is their only assignment, and the vast majority of
the schools have more than one physics teacher. In addition to Nassau and Suffolk
county schools, the Queens and Brooklyn boroughs of New York are on Long Island and
employ an additional 150 physics teachers.
This environment leads to the programs being
, with extensive professional physics teacher support in region. The Long Island Physics
Teacher Association (LIPTA) is large and very active. The New York State Master Teacher
Program (NYSMTP) for Long Island also has a large and active Physics Teacher section
that is involved in numerous professional development activities for teachers. The
region holds its own annual, well-attended physics teacher demonstration competition,
Teslamania, which is organized and run by physics teachers from Long Island. The rich environment
provides a cadre of highly qualified, experienced physics teachers who are able to
act as co-operating teachers for student teachers in physics.
The need for physics teachers in the region is considerable, which has given rise
to a relatively stable population of Physics teachers. The SBU physics teacher program
has a 86% five-year retention rate, i.e., 86% of the physics teacher graduates are
teaching high school physics five years after graduating. We describe this as being
and many of our graduates are now our program’s cooperating teachers. A factor contributing
to physics teacher retention are the salaries offered in the area. Starting salaries
for Physics teachers with an MAT degree are approximately $60,000 and the majority
of physics teachers in Nassau County earn in excess of $100,000, though it should
be noted that the region has a very high cost of living.
In common with many programs that produce multiple physics teachers, the SBU physics
teacher program is
– with, as previously described, strong advocates in multiple areas -- the Physics
Department, I-STEM, and the region’s K-12 school community. These champions have allowed
us to actively recruit undergraduate students (SBU has a relatively large UG physics
population), and funding from the NSF Noyce Program and Petrie Foundation has allowed
us to financially support students as they complete the teacher preparation program.
And the final C is
SBU has the capacity to double or even triple its production of physics teachers.
Keith Sheppard directs the science teacher preparation programs and has taught high
school physics in England, Tanzania and the USA, before moving into higher education.
Robert McCarthy is a professor of Physics, the Undergraduate Physics program director
and the Physics Education program advisor. Angela Kelly taught high school physics
in New Jersey and now teaches undergraduate physics courses. Axel Drees is the Chair
of the Physics Department and an ardent supporter of Physics Teacher Preparation Programs.
We would like to acknowledge the NSF Noyce Program and Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation,
for their financial support of Physics pre-service students. Their funding has allowed
Stony Brook to move from producing 3-4 physics teachers per year to 5-6 teachers per