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Danielle Tinkham '09: award-winning teacher of physics

Physics alumna Danielle Tinkham was a regional winner of a PhysTEC Teacher of the Year Award.

Danielle Tinkham '09
Photo credit: George Austin, The Spectator/SCMG

Danielle Tinkham, a Class of 2009 physics graduate, was a regional winner of the 2017 Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) Teachers of the Year Award for outstanding physics teachers across the country.

Tinkham teaches at Somerset Berkley Regional High School (SBRHS). She was one of 10 recipients nationally and the only one from the New England region to be recognized.

Tinkham was nominated by physics professor Jay Wang. She earned a BS in physics and computer-oriented mathematics and an MS in physics and mathematics teaching.

Developing problem-solving skills

Tinkham is in her ninth year of teaching at SBRHS and primarily teaches freshman and junior/senior physics.

“I really enjoy teaching, and I really enjoy the material,” she said.

She said her classes are not about memorizing facts; instead, she wants her students to be able to develop problem-solving skills that they can use anywhere in the world.

“Even when the material is difficult, we have fun. Because I enjoy being in the class, I think the kids enjoy being in there, too.”

SBRHS principal David Lanczycki said, "Ms. Tinkham is one of the most dedicated teachers we have here. The lengths that she goes to make sure her students not only understand the material, but love the material, is incredible. We want all our teachers to do the same."

Promoting the education of physics teachers

UMass Dartmouth is a member of PhysTEC, a 300-institution coalition dedicated to improve and promote the education of future physics teachers, an area with severe teacher shortages. Each year, only 35 per cent of new physics teachers hired have a physics or physics education background.

To address this problem, physics and STEM education faculty members Wang, Stephen Witzig, Grant O'Rielly and Alan Hirshfeld started a UMass PhysTEC program with a 3-year (2014-2017) $30,000 project funded by the American Physical Society and the National Science Foundation. The program aims to prepare qualified physics teachers through a streamlined 4+1 pathway. It has attracted considerable interest from current and prospective students.

The PhysTEC project has brought national and local recognition to UMass Dartmouth. As one of the supported sites, the university is helping address the challenges of physics teacher preparation and recruitment.

Locally, Tinkham is the latest of many successful physics alumni to be recognized. She was praised by Somerset School Superintendent Jeffrey Schoonover—also a UMassD physics alum, Class 1999—who himself won the 2010 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Some content for this story was previously published at SouthcoastToday.com: Somerset Berkley teacher to receive national physics award

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