October 2021: Brent Barker
University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
- Member since 2011
- Teaching Support Manager
- Chicago, Illinois
As a child, I watched a PBS home video called "The Creation of the Universe". I learned about the Big Bang and the four fundamental forces. I was enraptured by the idea that I could learn about what "is really going on", deep down. I carry this focus through to today, to keep looking for what is really important, and what are the root causes and mechanisms. I went on to teach introductory physics and found that I loved helping people struggle through difficulties and grow as a result, being able to do something they previously thought impossible, and to become aware of a bigger reality, better finding their place in the universe.
In my previous role, as the sole physics professor at my university, I knew that I needed to proactively network with other teachers and education researchers, to become part of a community of practice. Attending my local Chicago Section meetings, and then serving through the presidential cycle, helped form my identity and sense of belonging as an educator. Through attending national meetings, I got to learn from many experts in the field and identify research-based, cutting-edge resources to take home and adapt for my needs. All of my physics education expertise, I have gained access to through AAPT.
I carry this expertise and experience into my current role as teaching support manager at the University of Chicago. I develop curriculum for general education astronomy and geoscience laboratories, assist faculty with designing their courses, and supervise and train undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants, as well as serving on a number of equity, diversity, and inclusion committees at my university. I work to adapt material from the Integrative Science Learning Environment for the laboratory courses and the Learning Assistant Program for TA training.