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My father’s classroom seemed very large, cold, and strangely quiet. The air still smelled of chalk and the old wooden blackboards were filled with all the physics final exam topics. It was a sunny day in June, 1976, and my father’s teaching assignments had ended for the school year. He had taken me to his school to show me some physics experiments. I was 9 but I vividly remember my fascination, especially using the Van der Graaff Generator. I can still recall my skin tingling, my hair standing at attention, and the sparks pinching against my skin.
Deep inside, I was bursting with excitement to share this experience with my friends. I remember my astonishment, my questions, my father’s answers, and the sensation that the world suddenly became bigger and different. Later, I would realize that this was the event which ignited my primary passion for the rest of my life.
Another step in my life journey involved Mr. Leca, a retired university professor and family friend, who helped me make the transition from the basic understanding of physics learned in primary and secondary schools to the higher standard of physics taught in the University of Bucharest, Romania. His passion for physics inspired me until I understood that positive passions can bypass boundaries between humans, help us understand and improve the world and our lives, and bring people together for the better.
At age 26, I left Romania behind to further my education in the U.S., a turning point which put me on an enriching professional and personal path. Using my passion for learning and what I have absorbed in my journey, I discovered the tools my students required to be prepared - the Romanian idea of succeeding through study, the American organized way of viewing things, the Japanese rigor and hard work, the Canadian openness to the world’s complexity – and I brought them with me into the classroom. For further enrichment, I regale students with savory childhood stories from my first 26 years in communist Romania.
As I continue to travel to several different countries, I find myself adding many more stories because they all encapsulate a variety of common physics concepts. This unique approach keeps students' attention and helps them to more easily remember. Taking advantage of the two master’s degrees (in physics and biophysics) from two countries, and using an inquisitive approach, I have brought to my classroom not only the power of physics, in which I believe with passion, but also the power of exposure to other cultures and approaches to education.
To further ignite positive passions, I designed and created the "Power of Physics" (POP) Project, which has attracted many new students to my subject. The POP Project combines physics and marketing abilities and allows audiences to find what interests them. A key part of the project is my production of funny and intriguing commercials which promote the importance of studying physics - a very effective communication tool that also utilizes YouTube to reach a wider audience. Then, together with some of my best students, I have staged a yearly POP Show which also promotes physics, this time from a stage in front of high school students and community members.
Because of my early experiences in my father's classroom, I have realized that igniting passions are born at a young age, so I started taking the POP Show on the road to elementary and middle school students in my own school corporation and gradually expanded to neighboring schools. Over the years, I have received and saved thousands of written notes from young, enthused, and fascinated students who speak about their first encounter with physics. From the very beginning of the POP Project, I have carried imprinted in my memory the happiness and awe in the students’ eyes, the forest of hands raised to be picked as a volunteer during the show, and the applause and enthusiastic cheers at the end of each demonstration and show.
My students have consistently reacted positively to my approach to teaching physics as enrollment numbers went up each year while the AP Physics test scores stayed high. Many of these students became so passionate about science that they pursued it at prestigious universities.
Teaching physics with this same passion is an innate part of me. This includes trying to bring the POP Show in front of as many children as possible while continuously developing and enriching it. Because of its potential to spark new passions at such a pivotal age, I want to put the show on its own set of wheels. Grants, personal funds, and creativity currently sustain it, but my passion is to provide the "Power of Physics" Show for free to as many as possible.
Facebook: The Power of Physics
Who helped you find your passion? Do you know anyone is working to ignite student's passions? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and on social media using #AmGradIndy.
Liviu, a Romanian American, was blessed with an enticingly exotic and unique personal life and professional path. Having been interested in and exposed to several educational systems, he adapted and applied the best practices witnessed across his experiences to the learning process of his students.
Since 2012, Liviu has been involved as a presenter in the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (AP-TIP) through the University of Notre Dame, which guides schools to student success in AP testing.