JACKSONVILLE — When Nouredine Zettili began teaching physics at the college
level he noticed a common thread among freshmen students: They simply weren't
ready to learn.
Students struggled to grasp some of the basics in physical science.
Concepts were lost on freshmen and Zettili, a professor at Jacksonville State
University, couldn't teach the material without returning back to the basics.
Instead of fighting the tide, Zettili decided to look for the root of the
problem and discovered it started for students in high school.
"When I started teaching freshmen physics I noticed that most students did
not take physics in high school and the ones that did I wish never did," Zettili
said. "A couple of students said it was taught by the football coach.
It seems that some of the principals do not seem to know the difference
between physics and physical education."
Since it was evident that it was the students who were failed before coming
to college, Zettili decided to intervene at the high school level.
In 2000, Zettili developed a program for professional development to give
high school teachers the tools to teach physics at a higher level that will
prepare their students for college and encourage an interest in physics.
The program developed to include chemistry and is known today as IMPACTSEED
(Improving Physics And Chemistry Teaching in Secondary Education).
Zettili has run the program for the past six years and a new two-week summer
session for area high school teachers began again Monday.
The program serves 11 counties and 18 school districts, funded by the No
Child Left Behind initiative in coordination with the Alabama Commission for
Teachers from all over the state and a few from Georgia flock to the JSU
campus to be a part of IMPACTSEED.
The program gives teachers the knowledge and tools that would otherwise be
In any given year a physical science teacher might be happy to receive $300
from her school to budget for the year. IMPACTSEED lets them walk away with more
than $2,000 worth of materials to take back to their students.
Teachers in the program could not help but rave about the help that Zettili's
Rick Brown, an 11th and 12th grade chemistry teacher from Woodland High
School in Randolph County, sees the program as a lifesaver for him and his
"In Alabama, it's whatever you can scrape together, so the materials they
provide helps in that respect," Brown said.
Gresha Thurmond, an Anniston High School physics teacher, echoed Brown's
"It's been great so far," Thurmond said of her first year in the program.
"I'm really excited about the new equipment it's going to bring into the physics
department at Anniston because currently we don't have a lot. Hopefully it will
encourage more students to take physics at Anniston because right now there's
just not any interest in them."
The equipment the program provides allows teachers to move away from the
blackboard and get students involved in experiencing the real world application
of physics and chemistry.
"Students need real-world applications for science," Thurmond said. "They
don't really understand it when it's just on paper. You have to make it three
dimensional for a student for them to get a better understanding."
Zettili said that JSU has seen an increase in the number of students majoring
in chemistry and physics, a result he correlates to the impact of their work at
the high school level.
In addition to providing teachers with the knowledge and materials to better
teach, Zettili and other professors often travel to Alabama high schools to put
on demonstrations to encourage students to pursue a career in physical sciences.
Crowds of almost 300 students have sat in on two-hour long demonstrations of
magnetism, electricity and modern physics.
"The students love to see things they don't see every day," Zettili said.
"Shooting sparks over long distances and demos get students attracted to the
sciences because of the curiosity."
That curiosity has translated well from the high school level to the college
Zettili said professors have seen a far smoother transition for high school
students into freshmen courses, along with a revived interest in the sciences.
IMPACTSEED has continued to flourish into its sixth year and Zettili sees no
end in sight for continuing its work.
"I never thought myself that we would be offering this program for six
years," Zettili said. "It has gained momentum of its own. There's a need and as
long as there is a need you can't fail the teachers."
Zettili is proud of the success of IMPACTSEED, but is quick to point out the
commitment of the teachers who take part in the program.
"The teachers who participate in the program are the real heroes because they
have no incentive for doing this other than dedication from them to do a better
job with their students next year," Zettili said. "When they come here most of
them pay for the gas money from their own pockets. This is their summer
vacation. They are taking time off from their vacations to be a part of this
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com