The High School Teacher

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Spotlight on Hidden Physicists

The High School Teacher

Joanna Lucero, High School Science Teacher at Ann Richards School for Young Women in Austin, TX

Photo by Mary FreitagAs a teacher, it’s my personal goal to get young adults thinking creatively, analytically, and critically about the world around them. I get a thrill from seeing an “A-ha!” moment light up a student’s face. It’s an amazing feeling to realize you’ve earned a young person’s trust—that he or she looks to you for advice and will follow you on the journey to learn something new, even when it means blundering through moments of “not knowing” in order to get there.

My mom was a middle school math and science teacher, but I never wanted to follow in those footsteps. It looked like a hard job. It was her influence, however, that led me to appreciate these subjects above all others. But they were very separate studies to me until I took physics. Suddenly all the math I had been learning had a purpose, and I was overjoyed.

As an undergraduate student at Rochester Institute of Technology, I had the chance to work on some nifty research, as well as be a teaching assistant for the fundamental physics classes. I found that I really enjoyed working with others, helping guide students’ thinking, and helping them grasp new concepts.

During undergrad I also got involved with a swing dance club. I was hooked. I started traveling to learn to dance, bringing new moves back to my home scene and teaching them to my peers. These experiences helped me develop confidence in my voice and a love of sharing knowledge.

Swing dancing helped Lucero realize her love of teaching. She is shown here dancing with David Lee at Stompology 2014. Photo by Jessika Duquette.

As a high school physics and geoscience teacher, I am responsible for planning, organizing, and presenting instructional lessons. My lessons must contribute to the academic and social development of our students. I aim to enhance their self-worth and equip them with the basic scientific knowledge and skills needed to function as responsible and scientifically literate members of the community.

For me, the most frustrating thing to deal with is seeing students give up on themselves. It makes me so sad, and I take it as a personal failure. I keep trying to help them find another aspect of the subject relatable and hope they’ll be inspired to keep trying. Studying physics developed a sense of resiliency in me. It helps me push through professional and personal challenges on a daily basis, and I hope that I can instill the same sense of resiliency in my students.

It took me a long time to feel okay with not having pursued what I saw as a traditional physics path after my bachelor’s degree. I felt guilty, like I was disappointing the folks who had supported me, but a more traditional path just didn’t fit. If I had to give anyone advice on their career path, physics student or otherwise, I’d say, “Play to your strengths and do the things that bring you joy.”

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