Department Contact Information

Physics Department

Location: 180-204
Phone: (805) 619-5106
Fax: (805) 756-2435
Email: physics@calpoly.edu
Chair: Karl Saunders

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Resources for Physics Teachers

Why should you be interested in a career in physics teaching?

 Studies on the lives and attitudes of physics teachers show that physics teaching is awesome! It is a fulfilling, stable career where you can really make a difference.

Opinions are cool and all, but facts are better! So here are some facts:

Teachers in the United States rate their lives better than all other occupation groups, trailing only physicians.

Most teaching jobs have better retirement benefits than other jobs you can get with the same degree.

Grade 7-12 science and math teachers get paid more than most college teaching faculty.

Behind every advance in medicine or technology is a teacher who left a lasting impression.

For more fun facts and data behind these claims, check out Get the Facts Out.

I'm interested! What do I do?

Your primary resource for all things STEM teaching will be found within the Center for Engineering, Science and Mathematics Education (CESAME). The highlights are listed below.

A single subject credential is required to teach high school physics in public schools. In California, you can get a credential after you graduate with your B.S. or B.A. Degree, but you don't have to wait until graduation to get started..

Here are several pathways to further explore teaching.

  • Participate in one of the Opportunities to Try Teaching. This will be fun, solidify your interest in teaching physics, and deepen your knowledge about teaching and learning.

If you have any questions, contact any of the folks in the Who can help me section below.

Here are some extracurricular activities you can get involved with here at Cal Poly to sharpen your skills or see if teaching is right for you.

Learning Assistant Program in physics   

Learning Assistants (LAs) are students who support others in facilitating discussion and learning with each other. Here in physics, LAs are primarily employed in PHYS 141, 132, 133 studios, and in the introductory astronomy courses. LA applications go out right before the start of the quarter and you will be informed of your assignment during Week 0 or Week 1 of the quarter.  Exceptional LAs who successfully complete 2 quarters of SCM 230 may be invited to be a Learning Assistant for the pedagogy course.

Writing and Learning Center Tutor

The Writing and Learning Center offers tutoring for a variety of courses across the College. For physics, tutors are hired for Phys 121, 122, 123, 141, 132, and 133. To apply, check out the information here. Apply.

Learn By Doing Lab (LBDL)

Teach hands-on science lessons to visiting 4th-8th grade students. The lessons could be in physics, chemistry, marine sciences, biology. This experience is supported by weekly seminar that focuses on effective teaching strategies and prepares you for the coming week. Sign up for SCM 302 Winter or Spring Quarters.

Teaching Assistants in Mathematics and Science (TEAMS)

Get paid to tutor middle or high school students in a structured environment This experience is supported by weekly seminar that focuses on effective tutoring strategies and effective teaching strategies that build a community of respect and rapport for both the tutor and tutee. Sign up.

Mentors in Out of School Time (MOST)

Get paid to teach science and engineering lessons in an after-school program. You will teach the same 3-5 students once a week for six weeks. This experience is supported by weekly seminar that focuses on effective teaching strategies and prepares you for the coming week. Sign up.

STEM Teacher and Researcher Program (STAR)

Paid opportunities to do authentic research for 8-weeks in the summer at national and university labs. This experience is supported with a weekly seminar to help translate your research experience into classroom practice.

Education and Equity Minor

Expected to be approved Fall 2022. The Equity in Education Minor is an interdisciplinary course of study that introduces students to how cognition, social-emotional development, culture, and policy impact teaching and learning. More links will be added. 

PHYS 330 - Teaching Physics (4 units)

Upper-division physics elective that introduces you to aspects of teaching physics.

SCM 300 – Early Field Experience (4 units)

Historical, philosophical, and social foundations of science and mathematics education in public school.  Structured observation and participation in K-12 public schools with attention to instructional practices for diverse learners. This is a requirement of entering most credential programs! 

This is a quick list, see more about the teaching credential below.

Winter before graduation

  • Meet competency requirements

This used to all be done by exams, but they are currently in a state of flux, so there are more options for completing these. See the School of Education website for up-to-date information.

  • Apply to credential program

Find application information on the School of Education website

Spring before graduation

  • Meet field experience requirements

Take SCM 300 – Early Field Experience or equivalent

The Teaching Credential

Teaching at a public school (K-12)

In your last year of your B.A. or B.S. program, you may want to consider applying to Cal Poly’s Single Subject credential program. A single subject credential is required to teaching high school physics in public schools. This webpage describes and details all the relevant deadlines and contact personnel.

There is a required early field-experience course to apply to the Single Subject credential program. (e.g., EDUC 300 or SCM 300) to include 45 hours of fieldwork in a K-12 public school. The program requirements may be found at this link. We recommended you look through this list and get started on your various examinations and your early-field experience in the Fall of your junior year (or, your penultimate year).

If you are interested in a multiple subject credential for teaching at the K-8 level, you will need a Cal State application and an MSTEP application. The program requirements may be found at this link. Please note that unlike the single subject, this deadline is much earlier! Typically, the deadlines are in November, so be prepared at the start of the Fall quarter of your last year of your B.A. or B.S. program!

Teaching at a private school (K-12)

Unlike public schools, private schools do not require teacher accreditation, as they function outside the purview of the California Department of Education. A list of private schools that have signed a Private School Affidavit can be found here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/si/ps/index.asp

California allows for teachers with private school experience to apply for a single subject credential. Single-Multiple subject credentials.

Nancy Stauch, single subject coordinator and Science Advisor. I can help you apply to the Single Subject Credential Program for Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, and Physics.

Jenny Cruz, CESAME coordinator. I can help you with applying to CESAME programs and scholarships.

Chance Hoellwarth, professor of physics, CESAME director. I can help you with applying to CESAME programs, learning about the Education and Equity Minor, getting involved with Noyce and finding other opportunities to get involved with K-12 schools.

Stamatis Vokos, professor of physics, STAR program director. I can help you with applying to STAR.

Laura Ríos, assistant professor of physics. I can help you with applying to the LA program in physics and if you’re interested in taking PHYS 330 (“Teaching Physics”).

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