Published: Feb. 27, 2017
Valerie Otero PhysTEC

CU Boulder was recently recognized by the Physics Teacher Education Coalition as one of only eight inductees nationwide into “The 5+ Club,” honoring institutions that have graduated five or more physics teachers in a given year.  

With six recent graduates, the School of Education joined select universities nationwide for the 2015-16 academic year, including: Rutgers University (10), The College of New Jersey (9), Brigham Young University (8), University of Texas at Austin (7), Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo (6), Stony Brook University (6), Georgia State University (5), and Rowan University (5).

"There is a severe shortage of physics teachers statewide and nationwide," said Valerie Otero, professor of science education. "A great majority of universities throughout the United States graduate per year less than two physics teachers — a teacher that has a major or minor in physics — and the most common number of physics teachers graduating from colleges and universities throughout the U.S. is zero. Thus, graduating six physics teachers a year is a significant achievement, helping to address the severe national shortage."

With the help of the Physics Teacher Education Coalition, Otero has been working to increase the number of physics teachers produced by CU Boulder. In the early 2000s CU Boulder was graduating less than one physics teacher per year. With the support of campus and the University of Colorado more broadly, Otero continues to work with the CU Teach program to establish a subject-specific teacher education experiences. 

The United States has had a severe, long-term shortage of qualified physics teachers. Of the approximately 1,400 new teachers who are hired to teach physics each year, only 35% have a degree in physics or physics education. A 2014 report from the American Association for Employment in Education, found that the teacher shortage in physics is number one among 59 education fields

The Physics Teacher Education Coalition, or PhysTEC, is the flagship education program of the American Physical Society. It aims to improve the education of future physics teachers by transforming physics departments, creating successful models for physics teacher education programs, and disseminating best practices.