AAPT.org - American Association of Physics Teachers

February 2009

Presidential Farewell from Lila Adair
Lila Adair, Past President of AAPTAs my presidential year comes to a close, I want to share with you my feelings about AAPT, how we did in 2008 and to say thank you to all the people who have supported me and have made my presidential year such a pleasure. After 42 years of teaching, I still believe that the wisest decisions I ever made in my career was to join AAPT. Whether it was studying The Physics Teacher from cover to cover as a young teacher, presenting hundreds of PTRA workshops and presentations through the years, giving talks at local, national and international meetings, or just being the best physics teacher I could be for my students; I owe it all to AAPT. AAPT was my inspiration, a place to meet and share with other physics teachers, the source of unlimited lab activities and teaching techniques, a chance to rub shoulders and learn from Nobel Laureates and recognized leaders in physics and physics education, an opportunity to develop my leadership skills, and a voice to the world about the wonders of physics. No other scientific organization offers the unique, personal experiences that we have at AAPT. We are truly a member driven society designed to provide a service to the membership and the physics community at large. We may be small, but we are mighty, and my proudest moment was in Baltimore when Harvey Leff handed me the AAPT gavel and said, “Welcome Madame President.” Not only was it a dream come true, but it was my one chance to give back to AAPT a small piece of what AAPT had given to me. It was a pleasure to lead the Executive Board this year, and I thank each of you for the opportunity to have served you.

In looking back over 2008, it is obvious that this was not a normal year for AAPT. I had the great pleasure of working with three very different Executive Officers; Toufic Hakim, Charlie Holbrow and Warren Hein, each of whom brought new and creative ideas to AAPT. As the United States listened to speeches by candidates wishing to become our next president, the word we heard the most was CHANGE. Change became the  theme of my presidential year also, because with each new Executive Officer came new ideas and initiatives, changes in programs, staff changes, publications and communication changes from less print to more electronic formats, and of course financial changes after the stock market problems. We had to tighten our belt and draw money out of our reserves, but business went on as usual, in spite of the financial crunch. Our new CFO and fundraising staff are developing new and productive ways to provide opportunities for individuals and foundations to make donations to AAPT and to sponsor AAPT events, while our membership department is upgrading the electronic services and looking at new ways to attract more members to AAPT.

But through all of those changes, AAPT maintained the outstanding services for which we are known. The Department Chair Conference was once again a great success, with more applicants than we could accept. The New Physics and Astronomy Faculty Workshop, co-sponsored with APS and AAS, expanded to two workshops, to include the ever-growing number of applications, and plans began for a new Two-Year College New Faculty Workshop. The PTRA program began to wind down in the final stage of the NSF grants that began in 1985 and looked at ways of reconfiguring itself through other successful programs and even began offering special workshops for AAPT sections.  The International Physics Olympiad team, co-sponsored with AIP, brought home from Vietnam four gold and one silver metal and an overall rating of second place, the best ever for the United States. AAPT increased its participation in the National Science Teachers Association meetings with all day workshops, provided judges for the International Science and Engineering Fair, and increased their visibility at National Teacher Day events across the country. I also dedicated quite a bit of time this year forging a stronger relationship between AAPT and the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists (NSHP), and we are currently planning some cross-over events between the joint NSBP-NSHP national meeting and the joint AAPT-APS national meeting in Washington, DC in February of 2010.

Many of our activities are collaborative efforts with our sister societies APS, AAS, AIP NSTA and others. Working together for a common goal, we are better able to serve the physics community. The two most well know of our joint ventures are ComPADRE and PhysTEC. ComPADRE is an NSF funded program for AAPT, APS, AIP and SPS, through the National Science Digital Library, which strives to be the main source of physics and physics education resource material available to the science community. The PhysTEC program, co-sponsored with APS and AIP, has been providing services to colleges, seeking to increase the number of physics majors becoming physics and physical science teachers. Both programs showed high levels of success and large growth this year and are seeking additional funding to continue their efforts.

None of this could happen without the help of many people, most of whom are volunteers. 
  • I would like to thank the members of the AAPT Executive Board for their support of me personally and their willingness to stand firm and to make some very difficult decisions this year. They are all true professionals, who always put the success and future of AAPT before their own personal needs. 
  • I wish to thank the chairs of the 18 AAPT area committees and all of the specialty committees. The mission of AAPT is carried out in large part through the work of our committees. Not only are they a gathering point for special interest groups, but they also provide sessions and workshops for our national meetings and services to those groups outside of AAPT through the production of manuals, books, competitions and topical conferences.
  • I wish to thank the 47 Section Representatives who serve as the liaison between national and local AAPT sections.  They keep the local teachers advised about the services available to them through the national office and lend support to national efforts in their areas.
  • I wish to thank the staff at our national office, especially Michael Brosnan, Erwin Campbell, Valerie Evans, Marilyn Gardner, Tiffany Hayes, and Roxanne Muller, who make up our senior management team. They kept the Executive Board informed  of important issues and, along with their staff members, provided all of the services for which AAPT has become famous. They were often at the office late at night packing boxes to ship out for conferences, schools or members, standing for hours running the AAPT booth at our national meetings, answering phone calls, entering thousands of entries into our new data modules, Xeroxing and printing handbooks and manuals, editing publications, spending hours on the phone making arrangements for hotels and restaurants for the national meetings, etc. They are seldom seen as the face of AAPT, but certainly are the backbone of AAPT. I always knew I could count on them to help me with any of the problems that would come up.
  • I would like to thank Jack Wilson, former Executive Officer, who in 1985 said to me, “Well Lila, if you don’t like what is going on, why don’t you get involved and do something about it?” Without that rather forceful comment, I would never have gotten involved in my section, the PTRA program, the national and international meetings or any of the events that lead me to the presidency. He changed my life, and I will forever be grateful to him for that.
  • I wish to thank each of the 11,000 members. You are what make AAPT great.  Some of you are close personal friends and have stood by me and have given me a helping hand, a kind word of encouragement (when things were not so good) covered a session when a presider did not show up, encouraged a friend to join AAPT, or just remained a loyal member through the years. You are why I was willing to work so hard to make AAPT the best it could be for you and the physics community.
  • I wish to thank my family. My husband Terry spent many a lonely night while I was flying all over the country working for AAPT. I missed my son James’ birthday while I was in Edmonton this summer. I almost missed my daughter-in-law Nikki, giving birth to our grandson Liam, to attend an Executive Board meeting at the office at ACP. Through all of it, they encouraged me and wished me well as I flew off to yet another AAPT event.
  • And most of all I wish to thank Harvey Leff, my friend and mentor. Harvey is currently past president and guided me through all of the steps, leading up to my presidency. He shared all of his notes, resources, letters, files and listened patiently over the phone to my many questions and complaints. He was always honest with me, and told me what I needed to hear, even when it was not what I wanted to hear. He was an excellent president and leader for AAPT, and I will always be in his debt.

My time will soon be over, and I wish the best for our new president Alex Dickison. I have worked with Alex on the Executive Board twice, and we have become friends. He is a good man and a dedicated AAPT member. I know he will be an excellent president, and I wish him well.

In my guest editorial in the February 2008 TPT, I pledged “to provide the highest quality service available to our members, while still striving to reach out to the physics community as a whole.” I have done my best to keep that pledge this year, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your president. It was a dream come true for me. A year from now as I leave the position of past-president, I will remain a dedicated member and active volunteer, continue teaching my science methods classes at Piedmont College in Athens, GA, and supervising my student teachers. I will cherish my memories of 2008 and the opportunity you provided me to be your president. Thank you.