Amir Abo-Shaeer, the first high school teacher ever to be awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, earned both his single subject teaching credential and his M.Ed. at the Teacher Education Program at UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School. Since earning his degrees in 2001 Abo-Shaeer has been a physics teacher at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, Ca. where he also serves as director of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy (DPEA). It’s for his inspiring work at the DPEA that Abo-Shaeer was awarded the MacArthur, which is colloquially known at the “Genius” Grant. Abo-Shaeer also received his undergraduate degree and an M.S. from the Engineering Department at UCSB.
Recognizing the potential for programs at the secondary level to encourage students to pursue science and engineering degrees, Abo-Shaeer left a career in industry to become a teacher at Dos Pueblos High. In 2002, he created the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, a school within a school with a rigorous applied science curriculum that integrates physics, engineering, and mathematics courses; hands-on building projects; and specialized competitions. The program culminates in the design and construction of a robot by the academy’s senior class and its entry into the FIRST Robotics Competition. Although often competing against larger and better-equipped schools, DPEA’s robotic teams have received awards in regional, national, and international contests.
Abo-Shaeer’s ability to motivate students and his enthusiasm for science education have transformed the culture at his high school. DPEA participants are highly regarded by other students, and young women now comprise approximately half of the academy’s students – a proportion considerably above the national average in advanced high school science courses. He is currently developing plans to expand the curriculum to accommodate students at different academic levels, as well as to establish a training program for educators interested in undertaking similar efforts at other schools. Abo-Shaeer’s novel and effective model of science education is instilling a passion for the physical sciences in young men and women and is contributing to the preparation of the next generation of scientists and engineers for the twenty-first century.
– end –