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Mike Florek and Saara Naudts Receive 2024 Barbara Wolff-Reichert Travel Grant


College Park, MD, August 14, 2023—The first recipients of the Barbara Wolff-Reichert Travel Grant have been identifed.  The award will be presented to Mike Florek (early career teacher) and Saara Nadts (more experienced teacher) by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) at the AAPT 2024 Winter Meeting in New Orleans, LA.

Mike Florek is finishing his seventh year as a high school physics teacher with Roanoke County Public Schools. His primary school is Glenvar High School in Salem, VA, but he travels to teach classes at William Byrd High School (Vinton, VA) and Glenvar Middle School (directly connected to the high school). His course load each year has included AP Physics (which he teaches as a hybrid of AP 1 and AP C: Mechanics) and a General Physics course. He has also taught: Geometry, Advanced Geometry, College-Bound Chemistry, and 8th Grade Physical Science.

Florek's education career began as a summer camp educator with the Science Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke, VA, which turned into museum education and outreach, a brief stint running planetarium shows, and eventually graduate school for a classroom teaching license. Prior to this, he trained and worked (briefly) in civil engineering. He earned a B.S. and an M.S. in Civil Engineering – Water Resources focus from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and an M.A. in Teaching – Secondary focus from Hollins University.

Saara Naudts was born and raised in Belgium. Her father always encouraged her to think outside the box. After high school, she moved to Canada and continued to pursue her interests in STEM. In 2004, Saara started teaching physics in the Peel District School Board in Ontario, Canada and has been passionate about Physics Education Research (PER) and advancing the teaching of physics ever since.

Naudts is the incoming president of the Ontario Association of Physics Teachers (OAPT) and works with the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) Outreach Team as the Teacher Network Regional Coordinator for Ontario. Throughout the years, these outreach involvements have allowed her to facilitate many PER related workshops, review PI’s award-winning resources, and be part of an international network of teachers who, in turn, reach millions of students worldwide. This year, Naudts chaired the annual OAPT conference, an exciting 3-day event connecting science educators from all over Ontario. She was also selected to facilitate PI's Einstein Plus, a one-week intensive workshop for Canadian and international high school teachers that focuses on modern physics including quantum physics, special relativity, and cosmology.

Naudts is a lifelong learner as demonstrated by completing a Master of Education degree with a focus on PER in 2021, for which she received a Medal of Academic Excellence. She has big ideas and loves learning from physics teachers around the world about best practices to get students interested in physics and STEM fields.

About the Award
The Barbara Wolff-Reichert Travel Grant endowment was created by Jonathan F. Reichert to honor Barbara Wolff-Reichert and to encourage new high school physics teachers to attend and participate in national meetings of the American Association of Physics Teachers.  It is motivated by Barbara’s own transformation by her experience at AAPT national meetings which led to many creative and effective changes in her own teaching career.

About AAPT
AAPT is the premier professional society established to advance the greater good through physics education. With the support of members worldwide, AAPT is an action-oriented organization designed to develop, improve, and promote best practices for physics education as part of the global need for qualified Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics teachers who will inspire tomorrow's leaders and decision makers. AAPT was founded in 1930 and is headquartered in the American Center for Physics in College Park, Maryland.

For more information contact David Wolfe, Director of Communications, dwolfe@aapt.org, (301) 209-3327, (301) 209-0845 (Fax), www.aapt.org.