Amy (Picard) Winston '97
Newton North High School
Q. How did you decide to be a Physics major?
A. I am one of those very rare people who actually completed the major that she decided on in high school and never considered another possibility. Each and every one of my close Wellesley friends tried on a few majors before settling on one…and many of them now hold jobs that have nothing to do with their college majors. I was a sophomore in high school when I took Physics with Mr. Clare Reihman. I decided that year that I would be a high school physics teacher and never looked back. I immediately loved how physics could explain so much about the world around us. The mathematical challenge drew me in and the beauty of understanding kept me coming back for more. I knew that I wanted to teach because I have always been a people person. I like to talk and I wanted to talk about physics! I also wanted to help others see the beauty of physics.
Q. Why did you choose Wellesley?
A. Because I had already experienced sexism from my high school classmates in my AP Calculus and AP Physics classes, I was intrigued by the opportunity to study physics (and math) alongside only females. When I visited I was both impressed by Wellesley’s resources and program and interested in the cross-registration opportunities at MIT (Olin didn’t exist yet.) One of the reasons that I was so interested in becoming a physics teacher is because of the existing gender gaps in science education. Learning alongside women who were as passionate about science as I was would hopefully help me think about how to best inspire young women to explore science.
Q. What were the best parts of Wellesley Physics experience for you?
A. My fellow physics majors. My class had only 5 physics majors. We were an exceptionally close-knit group even though we had very diverse interests and experiences. We completed all of our problem-sets together, supported each other when the going got tough, and celebrated each other’s successes. None of us were interested in graduate school in physics (something which I know disappointed the professors) but all of us are using our physics education to this day in really important ways. We are all impacting society as positive contributors and each of our careers has its roots in physics at Wellesley.
My advisor. Ted Ducas was my advisor from my first week in Physics 107. He had been involved in many education-based projects and was excited to support my desire to be a physics teacher. I now understand how rare it is to have such support from a physics department for future physics teachers (we are a rare breed to begin with.) I’ve enjoyed continuing to work with Ted to this day. 10 years ago we worked together to develop a summer program that is designed to expose college physics majors to the possibility of a career in education. Each year now I visit the program (TOPS) and speak with the students about the routes into teaching. I am proud of this program we created and the positive impact it has had on 80 college undergraduates.
Q. What are you doing now?
A. As the department head for Science and Technology/Engineering at Newton North High School I lead a department of more than 25 teachers. I am responsible for supervision, evaluation, curriculum, budget, student placement, parent concerns, and the list goes on an on. Basically I am responsible for anything that has to do with the instruction of science or engineering at our school. I also still teach one Physics class and am a member of the school’s leadership team. I love my job because it is the perfect balance of the three things I love: teaching physics, being a science education leader, and being a school leader. One of the things that I am most proud of is the fact that EVERY freshman at NNHS takes physics. We are lucky to have 10 REAL physics teachers (something very few schools can say.) We work hard to adapt our instruction so that all students have the opportunity to see the world through a physics lens. I believe deeply that physics is for everyone and that all students can learn physics.
I am also involved in science education on the state level and work with the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on a number of projects including the development of questions for the Introductory Physics MCAS test and the assessment of students via portfolio. I am particularly excited to be involved in science education as we move forward with a new framework for science education and the possibility of Next Generation Science Standards. Science education is at an important intersection in the road. We must find a way to inspire students to be innovators and to teach students to think and work like scientists and engineers while continuing to maintain high standards for content learning and continuing to narrow existing achievement gaps.