Tom Zook Wins Local PhysTEC Teacher of the Year

Published August 6, 2021

Tom Zook, a triple alum of CSULB, was selected as the 2021 Local PhysTEC Teacher of the Year. Tom now moves on for consideration for the national PhysTEC Teacher of the Year award.

Tom Zook received his B.S. in physics in 2002, his secondary physics credential in 2004, and his M.S. in science education in summer 2021, all from California State University, Long Beach.

He has taught physics (all levels from conceptual to AP Level C) since 2004. In addition to teaching physics Tom also runs the robotics club which brings together a wide range of students.

Two years ago he developed and started teaching an engineering physics course which is being adopted by others in the district. This engineering physics class is being taken by students who probably would not take traditional physics and by some who have already had physics but want an application based course. Enrollment in his courses is high, pass rates on the AP are high, and interest in physics (and physics related activities) have increased.

Tom has been involved in a range of PhysTEC related activities at CSULB. He has presented at our monthly Demo Days, enrolled in the Physics Pedagogical Content Knowledge course, has presented at California Science Education Conferences and has repeatedly demonstrated his strong mentoring skills, working with preservice and inservice teachers to help them master physics concepts and teaching strategies.

Tom was hired by the Physics Department to work alongside former Teacher-In-Residence (now Physics faculty member) Rod Ziolkowski and Dr. Laura Henriques (Science Education) to revise the laboratories in a physical science course for online delivery (due to COVID-19).

This included developing hands-on, at home experiments which would allowed students the opportunity to collect some of their own data and understand a phenomenon. The hands-on component was then followed by lab experiences using Pivot Interactives, allowing students to collect and analyze higher quality data. This process took most of the summer and resulted in some high quality laboratory experiences for the students in the course.

When Tom returned to his High school classes in the Fall, he further modified these lessons, and added others to meet the needs of his students. This collaboration with Tom has showcased his creativity, perseverance, and insight about how to connect students to physics. We see Tom expanding his influence to the national level as he shares his work products and pedagogy at conferences for teachers.

Tom was nominated for this award by Professors Pickett, Kwon, Henriques, and Ziolkowski.