Live From...the Stratosphere
Robert Coutts, Biography


Name: Robert Coutts

Position: Astronomy Educator

I am a physics teacher at Van Nuys High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. I am on the Medical Magnet staff where I teach Conceptual Physics and Research Methods to academically able seniors. I also have been spending the summer teaching other science teachers how to teach at UCLA. Last summer and the summer before, I taught elementary teachers how to teach through USC ( the University of Southern California). Also this summer I lead a workshop for the FOSTER program at Ames Research Center on how to build and use Wind Tunnels in the classroom. I lead inservice workshops for several organizations here in southern California. I have been a mentor teacher until this spring for LAUSD.

I decided to become a teacher when I discovered I had an ability to describe things to my fellow Physics majors in college. We would all study together and describe a given part of the chapter to each other. I enjoyed doing this and realized I could get paid to do it. This occurred in my Junior year. I prepared for it by taking a lot of education courses as an undergraduate and after my career as a teacher had begun. I furthered my preparation by obtaining a Masters Degree in Secondary Education. Each year since then I have been involved in further training in one form or another. I am A Woodrow Wilson Fellow through Princeton University and a PTRA ( Physics Teacher Resource Agent ) through the American Association of Physics Teachers. I also am a Research Fellow through the Research Corporation of Tucson, Arizona. I worked as a research Assistant at USC in the UltraLow Temperature Physics Lab. This summer I was at the Stanford Linear Accelerator learning Particle Physics and at The KISKI school in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania learning how to use the Texas Instruments Calculator Based Lab interface (CBL )

The best thing about my job is that I can change kids minds. I can get them to learn Physics and get them to understand what science is all about. Realizing that I have improved the teaching skills of a great many experienced teachers gives me a great deal of satisfaction. What I like the least is people who will not use what I have to give and who prevent others from learning. I particularly like doing consulting work for organizations such as the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Industry and the Southern California Earthquake Center.

As a kid I had no idea I would ever become a teacher and so did nothing to prepare. I did teach all of my classes on student teacher day in high school and enjoyed doing so. I would advise trying in every way possible to do teaching of as many different kinds of people you can in as many ways as you can. You learn to teach by teaching.

I had a great Physics Professor in college who really turned me on to Physics. He was a great teacher and took considerable interest in our careers. My education professors really took a personal interest, too. With out their help, I never would have become what I am.

I am into fishing, back packing, mountain biking, camping , road biking, kayaking, wood working, photography , computers and travel. I love to read and enjoy talking to other people and learning how people's minds work. I enjoy designing and building science equipment and have a small business producing earthquake related science demonstration devices.

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