State OKs physics teacher licensure option

Physics majors at Henderson State University who aspire to teach now have a quicker route to the classroom.

The Arkansas Department of Education has approved Henderson’s bachelor of science in physics, teacher licensure option, which will allow physics majors to bypass graduate school and become public secondary school teachers.

“Henderson already has a bachelor of science in physics, but it does not include professional education courses, methods for teaching, or field or clinical experiences,” said Dr. Judy Harrison, dean of Teachers College, Henderson. “Graduates with that degree can work for business or industry, or go to graduate school, but they can’t teach.”

A physics major wishing to teach would be required to pass all required Praxis exams, enroll in a master of arts teaching program or alternative state program. But the new program combines many of the courses from the physics degree with a teacher preparation curriculum, including field and clinical experiences in grades 7-12.

Graduates of the new program would still be required to pass a series of Praxis exams, be admitted into the Educator Preparation Program, and pass admission and exit interviews, along with additional requirements. But the successful candidates can teach immediately after receiving their undergraduate degree.

There is a national shortage of qualified physics teachers, according to Dr. Rick McDaniel, professor and chair of the physics department at Henderson. School districts consistently rank physics as the highest need among all academic disciplines with regard to teachers shortages, he said.

“High school physics is a prerequisite for nearly all STEM careers,” McDaniel said. “The shortage of physics teachers is leaving too many students unprepared for college study in STEM disciplines.

 “Our department is excited to be a part of educating the next generation of Arkansas physics teachers.”