Gary Forrester, a UMass Dartmouth graduate who earned a master of science degree in physics in 2012, has been selected as a local Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) Teacher of the Year. The award was created to highlight the impact of new physics teachers that are evolving the learning experience of students in the classroom. Forrester is one of ten regional winners from across the United States and the only one from New England.
UMass Dartmouth is a member of PhysTEC, created to address the shortage of qualified physics teachers in America. According to PhysTEC, they have worked with over 40 universities to create cutting-edge physics teacher programs and established a coalition of over 300 institutions committed to improving physics teacher education.
Forrester, who teaches honors Physics and AP Physics, has enhanced the curriculums by including modern physics with special relativity and qualitative particle physics. This offers students a look at the future of the field while they engage with physics in a practical way. One such hands-on approach is the Hingham High School Robotics Club that Forrester co-founded. The club brings together students to compete in robot build competitions where they learn about physics and other STEM topics in an interactive way.
Remarking on teaching, Forrester said, “I get the chance to share my knowledge of a subject that I am very passionate about. Most young people are fascinated by the world around them and I love helping students take that first step into truly being able to understand that world.”
He has also created "question days", one day each term for students to come to his classroom to ask questions about anything relating to science. They usually discuss cutting-edge physics; the beginning/end of the universe, black holes, and popular topics like extraterrestrial life and time travel. "These days are some of my favorites as well because I get to show students how what we are discussing in class applies to such a wide variety of areas," Forrester said.
Entering his 6th year at Hingham High School, Forrester began his teaching career while at UMass Dartmouth. “During my second year as a graduate student I was given the opportunity to teach a section of the algebra-based physics course, I fell in love with education right there.”
Forrester is the second consecutive UMass Dartmouth alumnus to receive Local Teacher of the Year honors from PhysTEC. Danielle Tinkham ('09), a teacher at Somerset Berkley Regional High School, received the award in 2017.