My awareness of AAPT began some 35 years ago when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Fiji Islands. The local office collected The Physics Teacher, and I would carefully study the articles looking for ways to become a more effective high school science teacher. Self designing lab activities and learning modules based on local resources on an outer island, I appreciated the distant call of a vibrant community of physics educators an ocean away.
After seven years of tropical isolation, I started a Ph.D. physics program at Oregon State University, where I was able to work with Ken Krane and others on pedagogical revisions of introductory labs and supplemental classroom materials. Some of the discussions would eventually evolve into the OSU Paradigms in Physics Project. I left to become a physics faculty at California Lutheran University, and at this point became actively engaged in the Southern California & Nevada AAPT section. There I came to know Mary Mogge of Cal Poly Pomona, and I was first introduced to the International Physics Olympiad Competitions and the United States Physics Team. During this time I also learned about context rich problems, peer instruction, active learning, mentors research, mostly through regular attendance at AAPT national meetings.
By 2002 I realized that I wanted more climatic challenge in life, and sought a position in the Midwest. Beloit College became my home, and when a coaching position opened up on the US Physics Team, I applied. I have been working with these groups of high achieving secondary school physics students for 16 years; starting as a coach, and recently completing my tenure as academic director. Wow. Each year I am privileged to work with some twenty 14-18 year olds who devour physics, eat Jackson E&M for breakfast, lunch on general relativity, and dine on Morin’s Classical Mechanics for supper. Beloit College has remained very supportive of my engagement in physics competitions, and I have been able to dabble in one of my other interests: the science behind Asian musical instruments.
It is with sadness that I retire as academic director this year, but I will continue to seek out ways to remain involved with physics competitions around the world. With my newly discovered free time, I will push the Beloit College accelerator program forward (a few months ago we generated a focused 500 keV proton beam on a quartz window, on an accelerator designed and built by students in our machine shop). And since I will no longer be at the IPhO during July, I can start attending the summer AAPT meetings again!