Adam LaMee has announced that he is leaving Tallahassee’s Rickards High School to become the Teacher-in-Residence for the PhysTEC physics teacher education program at the University of Central Florida. Adam’s departure will leave a huge hole both at Rickards and in the Leon County high school physics teaching community.
Adam holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from FSU and taught for many years at Tallahassee’s Lincoln High School, where he was held in high regard by his colleagues. In those years, Lincoln was the strongest high school for science in Leon County, and Adam was a very important member of the Lincoln science faculty.
Adam came back to FSU as a student in 2011. During this time, he interacted to a considerable degree with our physics undergraduates, encouraging them to consider teaching careers.
In the fall of 2013, Adam took a teaching job at Rickards. Rickards is a particularly interesting school, since it is both Leon County’s International Baccalaureate site and home to some of Tallahassee’s most impoverished students. Rickards was a physics wasteland – the school didn’t even offer IB Physics, and its regular, honors and AP physics courses were very lightly enrolled. Upon his arrival at Rickards, Adam started working his magic. Adam convinced the administration to make the new AP Physics 1 class the standard IB 9th grade science class. IB Physics was revived and its enrollment grew. Adam was so successful that Rickards had to bring another former Lincoln physics teacher – Lance King – back to the classroom after a decade’s absence. Physics is now a hot thing at Rickards.
Adam’s influence extended far beyond the walls of Rickards High School. His enthusiasm helped build Leon County’s physics teachers into a community. Leon County’s high school physics enrollment grew 70% this year over last year – an achievement that is absolutely unheard-of – and Adam is one of the individuals most responsible for this miracle. Leon County’s physics-taking rate is now higher than that of every school district in Florida except Seminole and Brevard Counties.
When it comes to high school physics, UCF is in an interesting region. Seminole County is probably the strongest school district in Florida for science, including (and especially) physics. In physics, Orange County is more or less average. But Orange County has an important high school – Jones – that is very much like Rickards was before Adam arrived. Jones is the only high school in Orange County that doesn’t offer physics, despite the fact that one of its graduates – Presidential Medal of Science-winning particle theorist Jim Gates – is a highly visible physicist. Osceola County needs a great deal of help, as does Volusia County.
Given all this, Adam faces a significant challenge. But he seems to be well-suited to help, both with UCF undergraduates and with the local school districts. Adam is a great hire for UCF. His loss will be difficult to overcome here.