We had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Jon Goetz, the 2017 James Madison University High School Physics Teacher of the Year, to James Madison University. While he was here, we are able to talk a bit about his background, how he came to teach high school physics, and some advice he has to students, both the general populace and to prospective educators.
|Mr. Jon Goetz (left) with Dr. Chris Hughes|
Mr. Goetz started his undergraduate career studying aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied mechanical engineering. Despite this, he recognized that his passions were more in education, and after a brief stint in industry, went back to pursue a degree an education from Harvard University. In 1994, Mr. Goetz began teaching physics and mathematics at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, where he has remained to the present day.
When it comes to teaching, Mr. Goetz states that he enjoys most the amount of creativity involved with the job, saying that, “teaching is half art, half skill…constructing pathways towards understanding.” He describes his experience as a mix of showmanship and passion, and a job where he never sits looking at the clock. Ultimately, he says his goal is for his students to enjoy the class, and he certainly has different ways of achieving this. Mr. Goetz believes that learning comes from engagement, and has created a series of physics games to bring in excitement into the classroom. Among them is a zipline challenge, where students had to design a zipline to transport objects into a bucket. In addition, he provides students with many different real-world examples of physics so that they can see where the concepts they learn apply, be they in-class demonstrations of throwing eggs at sheets to visualize waves or videos of cats flipping around due to torque. Mr. Goetz believes that the way in which he teaches is as important as what he teaches, and it certainly shows.
To potential educators, Mr. Goetz says that the role of a teacher has to be motivated from somewhere inside. He also says that, while it is hard work, the job can be very rewarding, especially as the energy he puts into the job is always worthwhile. For all students, Mr. Goetz advises to not be afraid to try something, and also to not be afraid to change their minds. He sees that the world has much to offer, and to not see what is out there would be a disservice to oneself.