Passionate about teaching physics

Aug 30, 2019

Exchange with a serial hunter of teachers' programmes

CERN Alumnus: Moisés López Caeiro
At CERN: Summer 2017 CERN Spanish National Teacher programme
Summer 2019 CERN International Teacher programme
Today: Physics and maths teacher at Colegio Santa María del Mar High School, A Coruña (Spain). 


I met Moisés López Caeiro in Restaurant 1 at CERN at the end of his two International Teachers Weeks programme (ITW) in the Laboratory. Looking at his CV and LinkedIn details I could not resist interviewing him for the CERN Alumni audience, as so much passion for science was revealed from the information he shared.  

Committed to his students

After completing a Master’s degree in Theoretical Physics at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in 1995, Moisés start teaching physics and mathematics. Although he had seriously envisaged starting a PhD in physics at the time, his personal circumstances did not allow for this. 

Besides being a full time teacher, focusing today on 11th and 12th grade students (i.e. 16 to 18 year olds), Moisés regularly trains his students for the Physics Olympiads, which are a worldwide competition and he even led them to win a gold medal at the regional level in 2017.

Moisés’s commitment towards education does not stop there as he also organises scientific summer camps (Campus Científicos de Verano) sponsored by FECYT (Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología) at the University of Santiago de Compostela (IGFAE Instituto Galego de Física de Altas Enerxías) and scientific fairs that are sponsored by his own high school, (which puts to work more than 500 students each year) or by the City Council of A Coruña. The latter, under the name of “Science in the streets”. 

High schools need teachers who are prepared to go beyond classic ways of passing on knowledge and are open to the latest news, technologies and ways of educating students. This is what these programmes and grants are for.

Moisés is proud to say that many of his students, boys and girls equally, go on to pursue studies in sciences and engineering. 

How CERN Teacher programmes modify the content and the context of teaching physics

A few years ago, Moisés decided to enrich his teaching and started looking around for teachers’ training courses. As a member of the Spanish Royal Society of Physics, and receiving their newsletter, he noticed an announcement for a grant to take part in the CERN National Teacher programme. He won one of the four grants awarded that particular year and embarked on a week at CERN in the summer of 2017.

The theoretical lectures, visits and hands on workshops were fantastic and, two years later, I am still in contact with the other 46 teachers, via a WhatsApp group. We continue exchanging information, our ideas about books to read, new experiments to conduct with the students etc…. We discuss how to bring these HEP experiments to the classroom. It was a tremendous opportunity for networking.

Leaving CERN that year, Moisés already knew he wanted to apply for the International Teachers programme, scheduled to take place during long shutdown 2 (LS2). This time, he received a grant from CERN, which allowed him to attend this year.

“I was not in the least disappointed as the content more than doubled compared to the National Teachers programmes in terms of lectures, visits of all facilities and workshops. In total, there were 47 students of 38 different nationalities; it was like being at the United Nations.  It is an ambitious programme in many different ways. While these teacher programmes do not change the actual teaching style and skills, which are unique for each teacher, they change the content and the context in which knowledge is transferred to students.

CERN teachers’ programmes have inspired other teachers’ programmes worldwide

After his first CERN experience in 2017, Moisés kept looking for similar, interesting programmes and applied for the first ever LIGO International Physics and Astronomy teachers’ programme organised by Caltech/MIT, on the Hanford site in Washington State, USA.

The programme was inspired by the CERN teacher programme, as Amber Strunk, Education and Outreach Coordinator at Caltech, who designed it, was herself a participant at the CERN High School Teacher programme in the year 2016. It is based on the same three principles, lectures, visits and workshops that can be implemented back in schools. Some of the workshops also benefitted from contributors from the prestigious Perimeter Institute in Canada. And on top of this, there were social activities which stimulate networking and experience sharing.”  

The EINSTEINPLUS one-week intensive workshop for Canadian and international high school teachers that focuses on modern physics, including quantum physics, special relativity, and cosmology, is also inspired by the CERN Teachers’ programme.” says Moisés.

2019 was a busy year of learning for Moisés as he also took the AACI (Astronomy Adventures in the Canary Islands) which took place in Tenerife. 24 participants conducted night and day observations and management of robotic telescopes. 

Teaching using social media and the latest technology

Browsing the web for information on the programmes followed by Moisés, I discovered, with astonishment that his video lessons on teaching maths and physics have 8000 subscribers on his YouTube channel and the material he published, entirely in Spanish, reached 4.23 million views.

This is a miracle” says Moisés who had not anticipated such a success when 9 years ago he started preparing his own material for teaching including notes, exercises, simulations etc. and made them freely available from his FisQuiMat (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics)  web page. 
On the internet, you may find lots of teaching material for mathematics but not for physics so I wanted to start filling that gap. I am also committed to spending more time on creating this teaching material over the coming years”.

Students can find a wealth of interactive material that Moisés has prepared with Notability™.The display based on vector graphics ensures perfect quality. Although he could have a worldwide audience for this material, if published in English, our engaged teacher wishes to serve the Spanish student community first. “They can hear my voice and see me writing, and I am more effective at teaching them problem solving.

Looking forward to learning more on teaching physics

“I have already identified the programmes I want to follow in the near future: The Einsteinplus programme in Canada, a similar programme conducted by ESA (European Space Agency) in Leiden (NL), the Exploratorium in San Francisco, USA and I have spotted a teachers programme in Russia, designed by JINR and taking place by Lake Baikal. I wish more such programmes were available in Asia, for example on neutrino physics”.

However, Moisés’ most ambitious goal is to embark on a PhD in Physics Education Research. “Some of the teachers from the CERN ITW programme are doctoral students preparing a PhD in this new field of research. Why not a PhD CERN if the possibility is there!

Now a member of the network, Moisés looks forward to linking with his past students, who he has strongly encouraged to take on the summer-student programme at CERN. 

The circle is closed, good luck Moisés!

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