TCNJ again was named to the Physics Teacher Education Coalition’s “5+ Club,” a select group of institutions that have graduated five or more physics teachers in a given year.
Graduating five or more physics teachers a year is a significant achievement, helping to address the severe national shortage of high school physics teachers.
TCNJ has been named to PhysTEC’s “5+ Club” for three of the past five years. Most colleges and universities graduate fewer than two trained physics teachers a year, and the most common number of graduates is zero, according to PhysTEC, a flagship education program of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers.
“TCNJ’s Physics Department has a deep commitment to excellence and has distinguished itself as one of the leading undergraduate Physics programs in the United States,” says Jeffrey Osborn, Dean of TCNJ’s School of Science. “Whereas Physics programs across the country have struggled, TCNJ Physics has been purposeful in designing an academic experience that deeply engages all of our students in the field and prepares them exceptionally well for an array of career paths.”
One of the ways TCNJ is able to do this is through a grant from the National Science Foundation that helps fund full tuition scholarship opportunities for juniors and seniors pursuing physics teacher certification through its Robert Noyce Physics Teacher Education Scholarship Program. Seven scholarships are awarded each year to recipients who commit to teach in a high-need school for two years after graduation.
The program provides commitment-free opportunities to try out science teaching as first-year students and sophomores, and allows students to work one-on-one with dedicated faculty mentors doing real science research which they then share with young students. Recipients also receive continuing mentoring in career placement and early-career work.
“The department’s focus on the importance of role models and advocates for students at all levels of the education pipeline has allowed them to strategically build a program that inspires and supports the next generation of high school physics teachers,” says Osborn.
In its 2014 report, the American Association for Employment in Education found that the teacher shortage in physics is No. 1 among 59 education fields. Of the approximately 1,400 new teachers who are hired to teach physics each year, only 35 percent have a degree in physics or physics education.
Other institutions recognized by the PhysTEC 5+ Club for the 2017–18 academic year are:
Brigham Young University (21)
Rutgers University (8)
Virginia Tech (8)
University of Kentucky (8)
More about TCNJ’s Physics Department
TCNJ’s Physics Department is recognized annually by the American Institute of Physics as one of the top producers of physics majors in the United States. The most recent report of the American Institute of Physics ranks TCNJ’s Physics Department in the top 2 percent nationally for physics graduates among 496 non-PhD granting institutions in the U.S., and in the top 8 percent nationally among all 751 PhD and non-PhD granting institutions in U.S. Moreover, TCNJ’s Physics Department ranks among the top in the nation in the percentage of its graduates who have gone on to complete doctoral degrees, according to the National Science Foundation.
Teacher education represents an important part of the TCNJ Physics Department’s mission as well, and TCNJ is consistently among the national leaders in number of new physics teachers certified to teach at the secondary level. In fact, TCNJ Physics ranks among the top institutions nationally by number of physics teacher certifications among all U.S. college and university physics departments.
The Physics Department has also been working to improve diversity and inclusion within the field of physics. In particular, TCNJ’s Physics Department was selected by the American Physical Society to host the 2019 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) for the Mid-Atlantic States. Over 300 attendees participated in the three-day conference, including undergraduate physics majors, professional physicists from industry and higher education, corporate and academic leaders, as well as high school students and teachers.
The Physics Department has also been recognized widely at TCNJ, including with the 2018 TCNJ Mildred Dahne Award. This award is presented annually by the Faculty Senate and recognizes departmental or program excellence.