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WSHS Teacher Attends Prestigious International Conference

Webster Schroeder High School physics teacher Stephanie Metz-Miller spent part of her summer in Switzerland… at the CERN Conference!

Steph Metz-Miller at CERN.
Steph Metz-Miller at CERN.

CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Educators around the globe vie for the opportunity to attend its prestigious two-week International Teachers Week Programme. Steph was one only 26 teachers world-wide selected to participate. And, thanks to a global pandemic, she had to wait two years to do it.

She applied in 2019. Along with her letters of recommendation, her application needed to include an essay describing how she uses particle physics in her program.

“In New York State, particle physics is in our curriculum,” she told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in an August interview, “so it’s easy to incorporate in the classroom from QuarkNet. Because I teach a lot of material that’s covered, I think that helped put me on the short list.”

Steph is a participant with QuarkNet, a teacher development program jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

The CERN Conference was held July 31 through August 13. During that time Steph and her fellow educators attended and delivered educational lectures and lab demonstrations that could be replicated in classrooms, and toured the Geneva facility, including spots around the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator that scientists restarted in April after a three-year hiatus. Steph worked with three other teachers to present medical applications of particle physics at the end of the two weeks. They researched how and where it is used and presented their findings.

Not too surprisingly, the educators learned that teaching is vastly different from country to country and even state to state.
“One difference that we discussed was how physics is taught from country to country,” Steph said. “In New York, students take physics one year, sometimes two, of their high school career. In other countries, students take physics every year during their high school career because they do a spiral curriculum.”
The educators also learned there are many similarities between them. Most notably, all of the teachers in attendance have a love for learning and teaching. “We all want our students to do the best that they can,” Steph said.
So was CERN worth the two-year wait? Steph says yes!
“Learning more physics was amazing, but connecting with these teachers from all over the world (19 countries) was the best part. The conversations that we had both about school but also cultural differences were something that I will never forget.”
The teachers were also asked to bring something from their hometown to exchange. Steph brought a Buffalo Bills keychain. Interestingly enough, she discovered that there was one other teacher present from the Greater Rochester area. Joseph Perry, who teaches in Palmyra-Macedon, brought a Buffalo Bills football.

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