Editor's note: The following guest piece was written by Judson Wagner, a physics and engineering teacher at Brandywine High School and Brandywine School District’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
When I was in high school, I found physics to be fascinating, but learning it was never easy for me. Physical concepts tend to be abstract, elusive, and frustrating to comprehend. But I found that I could persevere when the learning conditions provided the time and space for me to sort through my messy thoughts and to share my ideas with others.
If your memories of learning experiences, like many of mine, are dominated by a teacher at the front of the room, try to imagine a space where speaking with peers in small groups is encouraged, using whiteboards to display your thinking process is natural, and raising your hand results in your teacher making every effort to rush to your side. Such a space, that is purposefully designed to allow students to stay with problems longer and continually improve their ability to think through challenging material, has become my mission. Today, creating student-centered environments has driven my pedagogical practice and has become the mode through which I approach teaching and learning.