Lecturer Mary Ann Klassen Honored by American Association of Physics Teachers

Senior Laboratory Lecturer Mary Ann Klassen (center) with Professor of Physics Catherine Crouch and Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics Benjamin Geller ‘01

Senior Laboratory Lecturer Mary Ann Klassen (center) along with Professor of Physics Catherine Crouch and Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics Benjamin Geller ‘01 at a circuit board that is meant to represent a neuron.

The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) recently honored Mary Ann Klassen, senior lecturer in physics, with its Homer L. Dodge Citation, recognizing her exceptional contributions to the association. AAPT is a professional society with a global membership that was established in 1930 to advance the greater good through physics education.

“Involvement with AAPT has undoubtedly made me a better teacher and colleague,” says Klassen, who came to Swarthmore in 1995 as a lab coordinator. “I’m honored and humbled to be recognized for giving back to the organization that has given so much to me."

An active member of AAPT for more than 20 years, Klassen has volunteered in its Southeastern Pennsylvania Section, serving as president from 2010-11. Her AAPT committee service has included the Committee on Laboratories, serving as chair in 2017-18; Programs Committee 2017-18; and Meetings Committee 2017-19. Klassen has organized or presented in the introductory laboratories workshops at summer AAPT meetings since 2007 and served as a reviewer for The Physics Teacher in 2016.

“Mary Ann has deep knowledge of the lab curriculum in both physics and astronomy, and through her work with AAPT she has helped disseminate that knowledge to the larger physics education community,” says Professor of Astronomy David Cohen. “Her work for the AAPT has also brought a lot to our department and students, as she is a conduit of innovative lab teaching strategies back to Swarthmore."

Among Klassen’s “hallmarks,” Cohen adds, are her “knowledge of physics, experience with and understanding of the nuances of a particular lab, and a lab teaching style that pushes students to think.” Klassen also taught in the Summer Scholars Program last summer. 

Klassen completed her B.A. in astrophysics at Agnes Scott College and her M.S. in physics at the University of Wyoming. At Swarthmore, she designs and teaches labs, which constitute an integral part of most of the College’s physics courses.

“Mary Ann’s award is a point of pride for the department," Cohen says, "and of course spurs the rest of us to help improve the labs we teach."