January Member Spotlight: Valerie Risk

Each month we will spotlight a NCNAAPT member. Each member will be asked a few questions about their involvement in the section to showcase the many benefits of their membership.

Our inaugural Member Spotlight educator is Valerie Risk, who has been teaching for 5 years.  She currently teaches Physics and AP Physics at Albany High School in Albany, CA.

– How long have you been a member of NCNAAPT?

I’ve been a member of NCAAPT since 2011.  That was the year Richard Muller gave the keynote address for the NCAAPT meeting at UC Berkeley.

– What is your favorite part of belonging to NCNAAPT?

The meetings are great.  When I was a new teacher 5 years ago, I saved up lists of questions to ask teachers at the meetings.  I still go with questions.  By the end of the day I’ve had a chance to talk to many people and I have some answers.

My favorite part is the Show and Tell.  In the past year I’ve brought a few demos myself — human dynamics carts and the bucket problem demo.  I like that after I present something, the other teachers know my name and they come over and talk to me.

– What is your best piece of advice to a newer Physics teacher?

Go to PTSOS (Physics Teachers’ SOS with Dan Burns, Paul Robinson and Stephanie Finlander)!  When I was a new teacher I was totally overwhelmed.  My parents (both retired San Francisco teachers) heard about it, went without me one time and talked me into going to it, and I’ve been going ever since.  I’m what they call a “repeat offender”.  You get to sit in an experienced Physics teacher’s classroom, they show you one idea after another, and they give you stuff for your classroom.  It’s wonderful.

If you’re close to SF, join the Exploratorium New Teacher Institute.  You will be surrounded by Physics experts and teachers within the inspiring environment of the new Exploratorium. They provide a coach, a mentor and great Saturday workshops with lots of ideas you can use right away.

– What is your most memorable NCNAAPT meeting moment?

Dan Burns’ “drilling through the earth” problem and Dean Baird’s Skinny Fish Tank come to mind.   More recently, Lauren Aguilar‘s talk in 2014 on “Belonging in Physics” really stuck with me.

– If you could explain NCNAAPT in one sentence to anther Physics teacher, what would you say?

NCAAPT is a supportive community of Physics teachers who value fun, creativity and diversity, and enjoy sharing their best teaching ideas with each other.

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