Samantha Spytek

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Alumni Spotlight

Samantha Spytek

BA, Physics with Concentration in Education from Virginia Tech

What she does:

Spytek is a future physics teacher, halfway through an accelerated master’s in education at Virginia Tech.

How she got here:

Spytek got the teaching bug at the age of 13 as a volunteer at an art camp for younger kids. “That was the first job I ever had, but I ended up going to school for physics.” Spytek says she loved teaching but thought she should follow in the footsteps of her mother, who is a researcher. “I felt that as a woman, all these other women have paved the way for me to go into research.” But a conversation with a professor about her passions helped her realize that teaching was her passion. Spytek eventually added the physics education concentration to her physics major.

Last year, Spytek worked on a multidisciplinary team that created a virtual reality simulation of a high energy accelerator for use in the classroom. She has spent two summers teaching astrophysics at the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins, a summer program for gifted students in grades 7–10, and another summer interning at the American Institute of Physics, creating lesson plans on underrepresented groups in physics. Now Spytek has a year ahead of her for practical classes and student teaching, at the end of which she'll have a master's in education and be licensed in the state of Virginia.

Best part about her program:

"I like showing my students how applicable physics is. When they're motivated, I'm motivated."

"I also really like the community of teaching," she adds. "It's a very nice, fraternal feeling."

Most frustrating part about her program:

"Grading is not fun!"

What she's learned:

"As long as you can demonstrate enthusiasm, that's the most important thing."

How she’s building community:

At Virginia Tech, the physics department has a club called the Ladies of Robeson (named after the building that houses the physics department) that helps get female students together for bowling or movie nights. Spytek also helps out with the "Day in the Life of a Physics Major" program, designed to assist incoming high school students considering a physics major. "I'm sort of passing the torch down to a girl who I convinced to come to VT, but I'm always interested in talking to prospective students," she says.

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