The tables have turned for 16 teachers from the Mission school district as they have become students in the Teachers for Physics program, which began Monday, June 4 at The University of Texas-Pan American.
For Peggy Fisher, an eighth-grade science teacher at Mission Junior High School, learning is an ongoing process she enjoys.
"My major in college was biology, so any kind of extra training in physics is a big help," Fisher said. "I'm just excited about being able to participate in this program."
During the program, which runs through June 14, the teachers will learn basic physical science concepts they can use to teach their students about physics.
A kick-off ceremony Monday morning welcomed participants and informed them about the upcoming courses and topics, including microgravity, properties of matter, energy conservation law and more.
"We are hoping that these teachers will learn as much about physics and then train their own students so that they are prepared by the time they reach Pan Am," said Dr. Mohammad I. Bhatti, program director.
Since its inception in 1997, Physics for Teachers has trained 110 teachers from the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, McAllen, Edinburg and Mission school districts. The $110,000 program has been funded through the Eisenhower Professional Development Grant.
Bhatti said teachers who have participated in the program have played a key role in influencing students to major in physics. In its first year, there were no UTPA physics major. Now there are 60.
"The best way to eliminate the shortage of physics students in our schools is to train our local teachers," said Dr. John Villarreal, interim dean for the College of Science and Engineering. Courses cover a one-year period that begins with a two-week training session. Additional sessions are all-day once a month throughout the year.
During the program, each teacher receives $100 for books, $500 for physics kits and a calculator, with childcare and lunch provided. Afterward, the teachers choose between trips to NASA in Houston or the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.