2010 Medal Winners | francais

The 2010 CAP Award for Excellence in Teaching High School/CEGEP Physics (Atlantic)

is awarded to

Robyn McKenzie

winner citation

The Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) is pleased to announce that the 2010 CAP Award for Excellence in Teaching High School/CEGEP Physics (Atlantic) is awarded to Robyn McKenzie, Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School (Yarmouth, NS), in recognition of for her ongoing excellence in teaching physics. A disproportionate number of physics graduate students, at places like MIT and Oxford, come from Yarmouth, NS. Those students identify a caring, passionate and effective high school physics teacher, Ms. Robyn McKenzie, as playing a pivotal role in their academic careers. As one former student wrote "She is nothing less than amazing". Colleagues mention her spirit and quiet leadership, and her constant quest to help others. Her principal wrote "She demands the best from her students, but she gives the best in return." Robyn has given countless weekend and night time hours to mentoring the school's award winning robotics teams. Even the Nova Scotia legislature cited her for "inspiring her students". It is certainly fitting that Robyn McKenzie is the first recipient of the CAP Award for Excellence in Teaching High School/CEGEP Physics from the Atlantic Region. announcement

Ms. Robyn McKenzie has been teaching at Yarmouth High School since she received her B.Ed. fifteen years ago. Prior to becoming an educator, she studied biology and math, attended medical school for four years, was an IBM systems analyst, and dabbled in medical journalism.

"When I was in med school, I knew I was in the wrong place," she says. At IBM she "didn't want to play the game." So after moving back to her hometown of Yarmouth with her young son, she answered an ad looking for people to teach adults wanting to earn their high school equivalent (GED). "I really enjoyed it and felt useful again."

After a few satisfying years in the field of adult education, McKenzie decided to earn her B.Ed. Soon thereafter, she began substitute teaching at Yarmouth High and quickly worked her way into a vacant position in physics. Trained in the natural sciences but with little experience with physics, she "taught herself from the notes" during the first few years.

A decade later, she has become a well-known and envied physics teacher who, year after year, produces top physics students who excel in university. Her former students, which now include university professors, doctors, dentists, and current PhD candidates at MIT and Oxford, to name a few, frequently comment on her passion and innovation in the classroom. "Physics can be dry." she says. "I try to mix it up with new age theories, like the link between physics and mysticism."

McKenzie's second passion is her role as director of the Yarmouth High Robotics team. Each year, the team builds a fully-functional remote-controlled robot which competes against other Atlantic Canadian High Schools. Despite having limited resources limited expertise, McKenzie's team has placed in the top three countless times and they have won awards for most innovative strategy and best engineered robot in previous years. nominator citation

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