Keith Starr '06

Teaching physics on chalkboard

One day, all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education" read the poster outside my senior year quantum mechanics class in Olin.

I decided to apply to Teach for America in 2006 and was accepted to teach in rural eastern North Carolina, one of the few rural placements. I did not know at the time that five years later I would still be involved in the fight for educational equality for all students in America, no matter their skin color or zip­code. Currently, I teach at KIPP: Pride High School in Gaston, NC, as the founding AP Physics teacher and an instructional coach for first year teachers. We are a free and public charter school serving students in the rural communities of North Carolina. 

There are two things I love (after my lovely wife Emily): physics and talking about how people learn physics. I believe that an education in physics is a gateway into the higher levels of science and necessary to be a productive citizen. In my class, we focus on the experimental side of physics and learn the basic laws through my students' natural curiosity (For more information, research the Coupled Inquiry Cycle). I am passionate about all students taking physics because of the opportunities it opens up. All of the seniors at the high school where I teach are required to take a high level of physics and I know that this will make them more competitive as they move on in their lives. 

I have also spent the last three years working with Dr. Sheila Kannappan, an astro-physics professor at UNC -Chapel Hill, on developing an astrophysics curriculum for high school students in North Carolina. Dr. Kannappan is a Teach For America alumnus whose research inter-­ ests involve finding methods to increase the diversity of students who study physics by providing college level research opportunities to them early in their education. The end goals of this collaboration are that we will make this curriculum accessible to physics teachers across the country and we will develop a research summer experience for students and their teachers at UNC-CH. 

Emily and I have settled in rural North Carolina enjoying the ability to start a rather large garden and keep five egg-laying chickens. We have been canning all summer and hope to move towards raising most of our own food. We also have the benefit of living eight miles down the road from a farm that sells organic produce and near plenty of farmers markets who provide us with sustainably raised meat, poultry and pork. As they say, "Goodness grows in North Carolina."

  • 11Teaching physics on chalkboard