Upper School Physics teacher Stephen Mikell earns $10,000 from the Barrett Family Foundation Award

In September, Physics teacher Stephen Mikell was awarded the Barrett Family Foundation Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teacher Award.

This award was created as a vehicle to award outstanding math and science high school teachers from private and public schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Sarasota counties. Through this award, The Barrett Family Foundation proudly honors outstanding high school teachers who share their energy and enthusiasm for science or mathematics through creative and innovative methods. The award further seeks to recognize teachers who are utilizing methods to cultivate student interest and ability in these two fields.

In order to win the $10,000 prize, teachers are required to write a letter about themselves, as well as an essay describing their teaching philosophy and how they use technology in the classroom to further develop children’s interest in the subject and keep it new, timely, and exciting.

“I use computer-based labs for physics,” Mr. Mikell said. “Students are able to do their labs in the classroom like traditional orthodox labs, but they can also do it at home, together but separate. It’s a great program to help our day students work together with the boarding students at night, when normally they wouldn’t be able to. I also use other online simulators to bring previously impossible projects to the students.”

“I try whenever I can to derive the equations for them,” Mr. Mikell continued. “I want to show them where the equations originally come from. Instead of just throwing them on the board and saying ‘memorize this’, I show them the calculus so they have a better understanding of how it works and can put it in more real terms for themselves.”

Though Mr. Mikell’s degree is in Nuclear Technology and he was a reactor operator in the U.S. Navy, he has now has been teaching for 17 years. “It’s not a career I intentionally pursued,” he said. “My mother was a 4th grade teacher. Education always surrounded me. In college I was a paid tutor, then I started tutoring for the college. When I got out of the Navy I started adjuncting and it turned into full-time teaching.”