Texas State joins the 5+ Club with newly minted physics teachers

Inside TXST

Julie Cooper | January 21, 2021

group of students sitting at table working on project

From partnering with NASA to develop STEM educators, to conducting high-impact research focused on solving real-world problems, Texas State University is on the forefront of advancing STEM-related research and academic resources for students and society.  Recently, Texas State earned membership in the 5+ Club from the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) by graduating five qualified physics teachers in the 2019-2020 academic year. This puts the university in the 99th percentile of all U.S. colleges and universities. Texas State is among eight universities in the country and only two in Texas to receive this 5+ Club designation.

“An important mission of the College of Science and Engineering is to serve the citizens of Texas and the nation with educational and research programs that facilitate innovation and economic development. One way to achieve our mission is to help prepare high school teachers who excel in teaching STEM topics, such as physics, to Texas students,” said Dr. Christine Hailey, dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

The American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) launched PhysTEC in 2001 to address a severe national shortage of qualified physics teachers. 

In 2015, Texas State became a comprehensive PhysTEC site — focusing on the national effort to improve the number of physics teachers and the quality of their preparation.  Eleanor Close and Hunter Close are associate professors in the Department of Physics and PhysTEC Site co-leaders.

“Achieving membership in the PhysTEC 5+ Club is a great accomplishment for us, but it is also just a mile marker on a long journey toward a new normal for physics teacher preparation at Texas State. It takes a lot of encouragement and support over several years to help new physics teachers grow into this identity,” said Hunter Close, who directs physics teacher education.

“There are countless stories of the important role a high school teacher had in helping a teenager aspire to become a scientist or an engineer. These are important careers that support innovation and economic development,” Hailey said.

“They often need financial support in the form of a $10,000 a year scholarship from our RADIANS Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. These scholarships are technically loans that are completely forgiven if a scholar fulfills the commitment to teach for two years in a high-needs school, which is most places.  Just as important as financial support, however, are social, emotional, and intellectual supports which we try to provide all along the way,” said Hunter Close. “Becoming a physics teacher means you develop an intellectual life of really caring about how students think about the physical world, and about providing interesting experiences that invite and challenge them to think differently. It takes a lot of coaching and mentoring to get there, but when you get there, it’s really satisfying.” 

The five Texas State physics graduates for 2019-2020 are: Lisa Vu (B.S. ’19), Daniel Chonis (B.S. ’20), Ian Anderson (B.S. ’19) Sanjog Udas (’18), and Shahrzad Hesaaraki, (M.S. planned 2021). Each student earned their teaching certificate in 2020.

“Texas State is fully invested in preparing STEM teachers of excellence for every level of K-12 schools, from elementary through secondary. Physics is a particularly intense shortage area for developing new teachers. The 5+ Club Award is a recognition of the leadership of Dr.  Hunter Close, Dr. Eleanor Close and their faculty colleagues in developing high quality physics teachers, and of the contribution to learning and innovation in Texas that our graduates will make across their careers as physics teachers,” said Dr. Michael O’Malley, dean of the College of Education.

Awardees in the 5+ Club will be recognized at the 2021 PhysTEC Conference in March.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922