Ken Gibson, who teaches honors and AP physics courses at The Westminster Schools, began teaching in DeKalb County in 1989. He joined the Westminster faculty in 2000. His students move from concept to creation by seeing the complexity and beauty of physics in the world around them. They don’t just use a 3-D printer, they design and construct one of their own. “We need more builders and fewer test-takers!” he says.
Q: What attracted you to teaching at first?
A: Having only had research assistantships in grad school, I often wondered how effective a teacher I could be. After working overseas for industry, I found the chance to have independent control over a classroom environment very appealing.
Q: Has the appeal changed?
A: Not at all. I love what I do.
Q: What keeps you going year after year?
A: No two years are alike – as a teacher in an independent school I am able to “reinvent the wheel” every year and my courses (except for AP) will focus on different applications of a variety of topics.
Westminster offers our students a 3-week Jan-Term class that allows teachers to try out new ideas. Last year I had our students build their own 3-D printers which they used to create original models of their architectural designs. This year I will be teaching students a course in creative welding.
Q: What do you think makes a great teacher?
A: Someone who has experienced the world outside of the classroom. This keeps what is important and what is trivial in perspective.
Q: What do you want to see in your students?
A: Not necessarily future scientists, but definitely our future professionals.
Q: How do you engage your students?
A: By including a balance of hands-on activities, group work and individual problem solving. Students have some control over topics studied and what is on their tests and quizzes.
Q: Do you have a project or special program you use year after year?
A: My students learn to solder circuits, measure things that may not appear to be measureable at first (example: how many miles per hour are your fingernails growing?), and design their own experiments.
Q: Is there a “trick” that works to get students involved?
A: Have a sense of humor.
Q: What do you hope your students take away from your class?
A: To want to know how things work, to be observant, and to appreciate the power of science.
Editor’s note: Through our “Exceptional Educator” series, Reporter Newspapers is showcasing the work of some outstanding teachers and administrators at our local schools. If you would like to recommend an Exceptional Educator, please email editor@ReporterNewspapers.net.