Teaching more than physics
Josh Ravenscraft has taught at Vernon Hills High School for 12 years. | Photo provided
Updated: March 4, 2013 1:50AM
Josh Ravenscraft has taught physics for his entire 15-year teaching career, 12 of those at Vernon Hills High School.
He took some time out from his busy schedule to talk about why he loves teaching and more.
Q: Wow, your last name is straight out of Harry Potter.
A: Yeah, my students joke about it. They ask me which school of Hogwarts I attended.
Q: Why physics?
A: I’ve always loved math, and I loved how physics applied all the math I was learning. When I look at physics, I don’t see something theoretical. I see everyday life and that’s how I try to teach it.
Q: What do you do to become better as a teacher?
A: I was National Board Certified this year, which takes a lot of work and effort. I also get together with other physics teachers. There’s a group called Physics Northwest that’s been around since the late ’80s. We talk about new ways to present old material, we keep abreast of new technologies and other new developments. If I can get even a little bit of all that collective knowledge, that’s great.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about your job?
A: I like seeing the problem-solving skills of my students get better over the year. I really see them improve, and I know they’ll use what they learn for the rest of their lives. I teach them how to approach a problem from different angles, think through solutions, choose one and try it. Problems occur every day in life, not just in physics. It’s how you approach them that makes a difference.
Q: What are some memories that come to mind from all your years of teaching?
A: About two years ago, I was doing a demo and I turned off the lights. Cell phone use isn’t allowed in class, and a student’s hat on the desk lit up because his phone was ringing. I’d never seen that before. Another time there was a power outage when we were taking a test and there was five minutes of time left. There are no windows in my classroom so it was pitch black. I told everyone to take out their phones and use the light from them to finish taking the test. Some of my students joked about it afterwards.
Q: What would you say to someone considering becoming a teacher?
A: I’ve had students who were interested and student-teachers, too. I tell them all the same thing. There’s something inside of you that knows you’re in the right profession when you’re a teacher. I knew it’s what I wanted to do when I was in high school. Also, no one can teach you to teach. When you start out, you’re not very good, but people around you can help you get better. If you feel that you were meant to do it, stick with it.
Q: What do you do in your spare time outside the classroom?
A: I mostly spend time with my family. My wife and I have 8-year-old twins and they’re involved in everything! Soccer, flag football, swimming, you name it.