Students studying physics education at Buffalo State College get to experience both sides of the classroom. And often they are taught by those who have themselves been on both sides of the classroom: local teachers in the field.
Dave Doty, M.S.Ed. ’05, co-teaches a 6-credit summer course (PHY 620/622) to undergraduate students at Buffalo State alongside associate professor Dan MacIsaac, one of his former faculty members.
Wearing a Lot of Hats
“We are always switching between our teacher hats and our student hats,” said Doty, who has taught in the Cattaraugus and Salamanca school districts for 17 years. “Along with teaching the content of physics, we also show ways to teach,” he said. “We do hands-on activities daily and lecture on the science behind these exercises. Research shows this is one of the most effective ways to prepare education students to teach physics.”
“Dave is an expert in teaching as well as in basic physics,” MacIsaac said. “He can freely and seamlessly move back and forth between the pedagogical and physics subjects. He serves as a wonderful role model to Buffalo State students who are preparing to become teachers.”
According to MacIsaac, recruiting alumni to teach Buffalo State courses is an integral component of the physics education program.
Buffalo State alumni Margaret Helmes, M.S.Ed. ’11, and Craig Uhrich, M.S.Ed. ’05, have also co-taught physics education courses at Buffalo State in recent years. Doty, Helmes, and Uhrich are all emeriti of the New York State Master Teacher Program, an initiative launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2013 in partnership with SUNY and Math for America to strengthen K–12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education throughout the country. The highly competitive program recruits more than 800 outstanding public-school teachers annually throughout the state who share a passion for STEM teaching and for collaborating with colleagues to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders.
Doty received the 2019 local Teacher of the Year award from the Physics Teacher Education Coalition, which recognizes physics educators for their contributions to schools and the physics community at large.
“The best part about teaching is being able to see something click for a student."
A Change of Plans
Doty said he did not always plan to become a teacher, but an experience as an undergraduate influenced him to later consider a career in education.
“I started at the University of Buffalo for engineering and realized I didn’t want to be an engineer,” he said. “I also tutored in a math lab on campus, which I enjoyed doing, so I switched my major to math.”
Doty worked in lumber yards and management for several years before realizing he needed a change.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Am I doing what I’m passionate about?’ I didn’t feel like I was fulfilled in my career, so I decided to go back to school full time,” he said, and pursue a teaching degree from Buffalo State.
The Rewards of Teaching
Doty said the most rewarding part about teaching is seeing his students experience “aha moments.”
“The best part about teaching is being able to see something click for a student,” he said. “In robotics and computer science, I love seeing someone build or program something and it works.”