BBA teacher awarded for work in physics education

MANCHESTER — Burr and Burton Academy Physics teacher Nicole Preiser has been awarded for Excellence in Teaching Contemporary Physics by the Contemporary Physics Education Project (CPEP), a non-profit organization uniting physics educators and scholars around the world.

The international award recognizes an outstanding educator teaching contemporary physics subjects at the middle or high school level, and consists of a plaque, a $250 prize, and a selection of classroom materials. In addition to receiving the award, the CPEP Committee Chair has requested that Preiser "consider becoming a contributing member of the Contemporary Physics Education Project." The organization has offered to fly Preiser to Berkeley, CA for their annual meeting in June, when the award will be presented.

"I've never applied for a teaching award, and I didn't expect to be selected," Preiser said, having been nominated by BBA Science Department Chair Rebecca Allen. "I'm happy to know that people who really understand the material seem to appreciate what I'm doing."

Preiser has worked at Burr and Burton for the last 12 years, teaching an array of physics courses as well as chemistry and cosmology. According to Academic Dean Jen Hyatt, the physics teacher has become known for her innovative and engaging projects for students — including this fall's Global Science Opera.

"Kids are actually looking through real-world telescopes, collaborating in real academic communities; things that set a great standard for our teachers," Hyatt said. "[At BBA] we spend a lot of time as a community thinking about real world problem solving and engaging students, and Nicole's projects are such a great example."

Preiser is able to bring real-world academic dialogue and research to her classroom to a degree rarely seen at the high school level, according to Hyatt. Participating in a collaborative search for asteroids — in which BBA students actually discovered an asteroid — analyzing the skys through the international Falcon Telescope network, and conducting research on star clusters are among the experiences Preiser provides to her students.

"One of the amazing things about her, because she's such a scholar she travels around the world networking with physics professors," Hyatt added. "She's got her kids doing high level academic physics research with professionals all around the world."

"I am always thinking about how I can improve, and I feel like I have more work to do," Preiser said. "Still, it's nice to be recognized by experts for the work I've done to try to find ways to teach quality lessons on modern physics topics."

It's a true passion for learning, both in her own edification and that of her students, that Periser says motivates her most. Having used CPEP materials in the classroom for at least five years, Preiser is perhaps most excited by the opportunity to contribute to the organization herself.

"I enjoy learning new things, especially contemporary physics, and figuring out how to present those topics to my students in a way that they can understand and appreciate," Preiser said. "I'm happy about the award, but even more excited to meet the [CPEP] group and see what kinds of contributions I can make."


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