The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Five Years Later, Graduate Returns to Teach Physics

The year is 2009. Seventeen-year-old Stephen Hine is sitting in a classroom, watching his teacher scribble complex calculus proofs and physics equations onto the whiteboard. Little does he realize that in a few years, he’ll be back in the same room. But this time, he’ll be the one in front of the whiteboard.

Hine’s interest in physics was first sparked in room 705 under the instruction of physics teacher Adam Randall. Hine said he loved physics at Los Altos so much that he decided to return this year as a new physics teacher. He teaches both AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2.

Hine’s first experience with physics was during his junior year when he signed up to take Honors Physics, a class that was offered at the time with Randall. Despite his initial interest in the subject matter, physics didn’t come easily to him.

“It was not easy from the beginning, not at all,” Hine said. “I remember my very first test in Honors Physics [the equivalent of AP Physics 2 today] was the worst test that I had ever taken in high school. I got around a 70 percent. I freaked out, I didn’t even know that this could happen. [Physics is] a different way of thinking about science and math in general, and the fact that you have to combine concepts with the equations makes it very difficult. So it did not come naturally.”

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The difficulty Hine encountered in physics in the beginning did not detract from its appeal. Instead, it intensified his interest in the class and the subject. Much of his initial interest was due to the teaching style of his physics teacher, Randall.

“It’s not a normal teaching style,” Hine said. “He’s very much himself when he teaches. He’ll say weird things and make you laugh, but then he immediately ties that into the equations and into the concepts. [He] never goes off topic ever. He teaches you in a way that keeps you engaged. Even if you might not necessarily be following along with the problem, you’re paying attention to him. That’s the first step, right?”

Hine enjoyed Randall’s class so much that the next year, he signed up to take another class taught by Randall—Physics C. Randall believes this is when Hine’s interest in physics really blossomed to the next level.

“By Physics C, Hine was crazy,” Randall said. “He started to write out solutions that were sort of artistic and [even worthy of being] published in the Library of Congress. He got really involved in the labs [and] he was really precise in the way he set up his experiments. He was always helping other students and [was] just thrilled about [the idea of] being an engineer or a physicist or something like that.”

When the college application process began later that year, Hine decided he wanted to pursue physics and went on to major in the science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Hine also decided to go into teaching and received a Master of Education degree from Santa Barbara. His desire to teach had started at the high school level.

“I was always helping my classmates and having those mini-teaching moments when you’re trying to help your classmates through a problem,” Hine said. “And in particular, Randall was definitely a major influence. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to teach physics and be that awesome.”

Many of his high school teachers also thought at the time that he would make an excellent teacher.

“Mr. Hine always took a really scholarly approach to learning,” math teacher Judy Strauss said. “For him, it was more important to understand the concepts than anything else. He was always good at really listening to people. He was very patient, and it seemed like he had a desire to teach. And the other thing is that he had a real interest and love in his subject area. There are so many things about Hine that scream, ‘Great teacher.’”

Despite his interest in teaching, Hine did not expect to come back and teach at Los Altos. Mr. Randall was also pleasantly surprised by Hine’s decision to come back.

“I could tell he had general enthusiasm and interest but I didn’t realize he was that interested in teaching,” Randall said. “It wasn’t until his name showed up on the list of possible candidates [that I realized]. As soon as I saw his name I thought, ‘He’s a totally competent scientist, he knows our system, he’s highly educated, he’s creative [and] he’s young.’ He brings a lot to our department. And then of course his enthusiasm is super high… I mean this guy was perfect for us.”

So far, Randall has been impressed by the level of dedication and commitment Hine brings to the classroom everyday.

“He’s already [started] researching things that we are going to be doing in the 2nd semester now,” Randall said. “He’s buying equipment, we are doing labs together and he’s planning how the year is going to lay out. It’s really neat. He’s totally committed.”

As a new teacher, Hine hopes to continue to develop his teaching skills and give back to the school community he grew up in by helping clubs with their community service goals.

“This year, my goal is definitely solidifying my methods and figuring out how exactly it is I teach,” Hine said. “I’ve also got a couple clubs that I am advisor for—Spikeball club, Ultimate Frisbee club and Physics club, [and] I’d really like to focus on them. I want to get kids involved in what they’re interested in.”

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  • Rosielee Crosley | Nov 1, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    How great it is to read an article that is positive. These are the stories we should be hearing on the news to balance the negativity hammered into us day in and day out by the media. This is a story of heroism. Adam Randall and Stephen Hine made choices to be the best they can be and make their lives matter. How refreshing!