Physics Teacher SOS

Welcome to the PTSOS website. We focus on content useful for teachers new to
teaching physics at the high school and community college level.

Dan Burns
Workshop Leader
Los Gatos High School

Dan has been teaching high school physics since 1992. He has been a member, officer, and contributor with NCNAAPT. He works with the SETI Institute, USGS, AAPT, SJSU, and serves as the Faculty Scholar at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Tom Shefler
Workshop Leader
Granada HS, Livermore

Tom teaches physics, math, engineering, and astronomy at Granada High School in Livermore. He has a physics degree from Western Michigan University and a Masters in astronomy from Cal. While working on his Masters, Tom discovered Supernova 1998DT. Tom works as a Faculty Scholar at LLNL where he helps conduct the Fusion/Astrophysics Teacher Research Academy and the popular Science on Saturday program.

Val Monticue
Outreach Coordinator

Val has taught high school physics since 2008. She is an active member of NCNAAPT, currently serving in the office of the President. She has contributed to physics research projects in collaboration with NASA JPL and Stanford University and is the author of the "Stepping Into NGSS" website on NGSS implementation.

PTSOS is made possible by a
grant from
The Karl L. Brown Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Food, beverages, and snacks are provided by a grant from Joe Marasco.

Join the PTSOS Group

Get the latest announcements and updates on PTSOS! For more information email
Val Monticue:

The 2018 AAPT Winter Meeting will be held in San Diego, CA, at the Town and Country San Diego, January 6-9.

PTSOS is brought to you by The Northern California and Nevada Section of The American Association of Physics Teachers.

New Physics Teacher Workshops

The New Physics Teacher Workshops are a series of free, day-long, professional development workshops for teachers new to teaching physics in the Southern California area.

Photos of Past Workshops
PTSOS Workshop 1/31/09
PTSOS Workshop 1/22/11

PTSOS Founders

Paul Robinson
Former Workshop Leader
San Mateo HS

Paul taught high school physics from 1974 to 2011. He is a long-time member of and contributor to NCNAAPT having served as Program Chair, Historian, and Section Representative for many years. He is the author of the Conceptual Physics lab manuals and the recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 1987.

Stephanie Finander
Former Outreach Coordinator
Woodside High School

Stephanie has taught high school physics since 1990. She is a long-time member of and contributor to NCNAAPT. She is a principal founder and organizer of the PTSOS New Teacher Workshop, and was moderator of the PTSOS discussion group.

     Information about the next workshop (#3 - Electricity, Magnetism & Light) for the 2017-18 school year will be coming soon. Stay tuned...

Check out this cool video by Leah Luchsinger of Workshop #2 on February 3, 2018.


Check out some fun things from our March 11, 2017 workshop!

Files and Resources
Workshop 1: Mechanics
Workshop 2: Waves, Sound & Heat
Workshop 3: Electricity, Magnetism & Light

PTSOS Workshops 1, 2 & 3 CEU Forms
Please send a request for these forms to Paul Robinson at

See participants at PTSOS having fun while learning (QT movie) demonstrate how mechanical energy is converted into heat.

Workshop 1

Workshop 2

Workshop 3

September 16, 2017
February 3, 2018
TBA, 2018
Waves, Sound,
and Heat
and Light
The Gravity of
the Matter
Give Physics
a Whirl
Come See
the Light
Files & Resources
Files & Resources
Files & Resources
All workshops will be held at Los Gatos High School, Los Gatos, CA (map)

       PTSOS is a workshop and support program for new high and middle school physics teachers in Northern California. We offer 3 all-day Saturday workshops during the school year. In addition to learning about the details of the craft of physics teaching from experienced teachers, participants receive continental breakfast, lunch, and physics equipment for them to use in their classroom. The PTSOS program is recognized as one of the most effective programs for training and retaining new physics teachers.

       Please consider giving whatever amount you are comfortable with to help us continue this important program. The PTSOS team, the new physics teachers, and most important, their students, will be very grateful. All funds will be put into the account of the non-profit 
Northern California and Nevada American Association of Physics Teachers for use of the PTSOS program. To help us make sure we use all of the funds this year please donate by the end of November, 2016.


What a great group of Physics teachers at the first
PTSOS workshop of the year! (2016). Thanks to all who came!

       Hello PTSOS'ers, we had a great first workshop with the new PTSOS team. Val and Tom were great to work with. I hope we can approach the success of what Paul, Stephanie, and Dean started over 15 years ago. I enjoyed spending the day with other physics teachers, as always. If you got a good picture of the rocket burn today, please send me your photo:


PTSOS participants hold up their Peer Instruction books, one of the many goodies they received.
(Click on the picture to see a TourWrist pano.)

~ Physics Teacher SOS ~
Where Northern California's new and newly assigned physics teachers
are mentored by successful, experienced physics teachers...FOR FREE!

Fifty Percent of New Teachers Leave Teaching Within Five Years...

       The call to recruit new teachers is heard across the nation. Efforts to retain new teachers are sporadic or non-existent. It's tough enough being a new teacher. Being a new physics teacher involves a special set of challenges.

• You have very little laboratory apparatus
• Some of what you do have is a complete mystery
• You're confused about content standards and statewide assessments
• Your physics enrollment is low
• Worst of all, there's no one you can ask for physics teaching guidance

That's Where Physics Teacher SOS Comes In!

       Physics Teacher SOS (PTSOS) offers workshops, mentors, and online support for new and newly assigned physics teachers in Northern California. There is no cost to individual teachers or their schools for these services. Any teacher newly assigned to teach physics within the last five years is encouraged to participate.

PTSOS Workshops

       Workshop leaders guide new teachers through a variety of activities and discussion topics, including:

• effective demonstrations (and how to demonstrate them)
• how to deal with paperwork
• minimizing lecture
• lab group management
• funding and how to be prepared for it
• how to increase physics enrollment
• content standards and statewide assessments
• managing apparatus
• integrating technology into curriculum
• effective presentation (PowerPoint) techniques
• topics brought up by the new teachers in attendance

***Attendees are given a variety of support materials at the workshops (lots of free goodies!).***

PTSOS Mentors

       New teachers are paired with experienced, local physics teacher mentors. The mentors are there to provide one-on-one guidance where needed and to answer questions that come up throughout the school year.

PTSOS Online Community

       Physics Teacher SOS maintains an online discussion group. Workshop leaders and mentors monitor the messages and add to the ongoing discussion of topics as they arise. To join the group, go to our PTSOS Yahoo Groups signup page or email our Outreach Coordinator, Val Monticue, at

PTSOS Workshop Signups

       To signup for a workshop please see new information and registration instructions. For more information, contact our Outreach Coordinator, Val Monticue, at Space is limited so signup early to reserve your spot!

Selected Workshop Resource Links

Paul Robinson's Website

Paul Robinson: Increasing Your Impact (PDF)
Words to the wise from your New Teacher Workshop organizer and leader.

Paul Robinson: Getting to Know Your Textbook (PDF)
A set of questions students answer by exploring their Conceptual Physics textbook.

Dan Burns' Website
This is Dan's Los Gatos High School website.

Dan's Roadrunner Physics Clips
These clips from Warner Brothers Road Runner cartoons are intended for use by physics teachers. Suggestions for use are included next to each clip.

Dan's Science of Simpsons Clips
These clips from The Simpsons TV series are intended for use by physics teachers. Suggestions for use are included next to each clip.

Stephanie Finander's Goodie Bag Notes (PDF)
Words to the wise from your PTSOS Outreach coordinator.

Dean Baird's Phyz Website
A fountain of teacher resources including
The Book of Phyz Online.

"Next-Time Questions" by Paul Hewitt
Challenging and fascinating questions that will spark interest and discussion amongst your students.

Pretty Good Physics Wiki
A treasure trove of physics resources.

Optics Bookshelf
A great optics website by Clarence Bakken.

Field Trip at the Lab: Science on Saturday
Join a group of science teachers and middle and high school students on a field trip to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for the annual Science on Saturday (SOS) lecture series.

The Feynman Lectures on Physics
Caltech and The Feynman Lectures Website are pleased to present this online edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics.

Suggested Vendors

Excellent products. Lab equipment, demo equipment, probeware, etc. And a long-standing sponsor of NCNAAPT events. Pasco has a rich
Educator Resource page.

Wide variety. If they haven't got it, you probably don't want it! Sargent-Welch hosts the Cenco Physics Blog which features product demonstration videos..

Arbor Scientific
Fun, unusual, and high-interest items.
Conceptual Physics resources and lab activities. They publish a Cool Stuff Newsletter, and have a growing library of product demonstration videos.

Science Kit
Excellent variety. Known for their "
Teacher Developed Classroom Tested" products!

Vernier Software
Excellent computer interface and probeware. And a long-time friend of NCNAAPT. You can get their newsletter,
The Caliper, online or via free email subscription.

Val Monticue, | Dan Burns,