Q & A


Esperanza High School teacher Marcia Sprang

Esperanza High School science teacher Marcia Sprang received the Orange County Physics Teacher of the Year award from the UCI Science Education Advisory Board this week.

Nominations for the award came from her former students, who are now science majors at UCI. Sprang, 46, of Yorba Linda has taught advanced placement physics at the Anaheim high school for about 10 years and is the coach for the school’s Science Olympiad team.

Correspondent Jennifer Leuer talked with Sprang about her job and the importance of science for today’s students.


Q: Why do you think your students recommended you to receive the award?

A: My understanding is students made recommendations of teachers who they think were very original or prepared them well for college. For the most part, I have lots of kids who come back to talk to me about what they’re doing, which is typical of many teachers at this high school. The students who come back are very positive about the preparation I have given them. But, it’s probably a biased sample since students who bother to come back are generally positive about their experience here. My goal is to get students to think about science and give them some perspective on how these theories fit into life.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for students to move past the basic two-year science requirement and take a class like physics?

A: It’s important for students to understand that there are concrete explanations for physical phenomena and that things happen for reasons. It’s a way to get students to look at numbers and see how you analyze data, ask questions and find answers. . . . I also think there’s a lot of beauty in the world. The more you understand science and the more you know, it helps you appreciate the beauty. When you look at a rainbow, it’s beautiful. But because I know what makes a rainbow, it’s more beautiful.

Q: How do you keep your students interested in the material?

A: After we take the (advanced placement) exams, we do projects, in-class building activities. I’ll tell them to build a device that will allow you to drop an egg off the roof without breaking it, or build a bridge out of paper and see how many pennies you can put on it. And I give prizes for the winning projects. We spend some time talking about movies. Take, “Beam me up, Scotty”-- what is the energy requirement for this, where could it come from and where would it go? “Star Wars” is also really interesting too. Let’s play the explosion back without the sound. How does it sell now? I just try very hard to get them to think about why things are the way they are, to talk to each other and to explain to me what’s going on.