QuarkNet teacher named Inspirational Teacher of the Year

Author: Marissa Gebhard

Mike Sinclair

Michael Sinclair, a physics teacher at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center and teacher in the Notre Dame QuarkNet program, has received a Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award for 2013.

Sinclair has a reputation for being one of the school’s toughest teachers.  He has high expectations of his students, but after experiencing his excitement for physics in his classroom, students rave about Sinclair.  Nominated for the award by former student Adrienne Erickcek, he has been recognized as a teacher that has had “an extraordinary impact on the lives of students.”

Erickcek, who has since earned a Ph.D. in physics and is now a theoretical Cosmologist at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, wrote an essay reflecting her experience as one of Sinclair’s students, and how he cemented her dream to be an astrophysicist.  She describes his passion for physics in the classroom, as well as his accessibility for all students.  “Mr. Sinclar treated me like a fellow explorer of the cosmos. He listened to my ideas with excitement and respect,” she recalls.

The Kennedy  Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award is awarded to seven teachers nationally every year, and comes with a $10,000 cash reward.  Sinclair says he cannot imagine being anything other than a teacher. “I choose to be a teacher because I am passionate about science and mathematics, love the daily intellectual interplay with students, revel in the brilliance of young people, and embrace the challenge of educating for the future.” 

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, the Notre Dame QuarkNet program supports science education in schools by providing opportunities for local teachers and students to learn firsthand about physics research at universities, and by providing mentoring relationships with physicists at universities and in national laboratories.