Teacher feature: Goodwin sees the good in teaching

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By Katherine Wang



“Physics is phun” is a popular phrase among the students of Los Alamos High School physics teacher Leroy Goodwin. Spending only one class period in room E-8 reveals exactly why so many students favor the subject.

The plethora of hands-on projects and demonstrations captures the attention of the learners and generates a connection between teacher and student.

Goodwin has led a career that defines the epitome of being a teacher. After working at LAHS for 20 years, he has decided to seek retirement.

He received his teaching degree at the University of New Mexico and had not originally planned to pursue teaching but “eventually (came) to it” when working as a construction foreman.

“I thought, ‘I’m getting too old for this kind of work.’ I was young still, but I thought I was getting too old, so that’s when I decided I would go into teaching,” Goodwin said.

He started his career teaching at Capital High School in Santa Fe and moved on to LAHS later.

His experiences allowed him to contrast the two types of learning environments.

“The students in both places are wonderful students. In Santa Fe, there isn’t the support that we sometimes see in Los Alamos,” Goodwin said.

After arriving at LAHS, he taught a variety of different subjects and programs including school of choice, robotics, drafting and engineering.

He says he has now “come full circle” teaching physics.

Goodwin believes firmly that any great teacher “(has) to love the subject (they are) teaching.” His own teaching style reflects his beliefs: “see the problem from the student’s perspective (and) remember how to learn and how difficult it can be,” he said.

Goodwin’s experience teaching high school extends throughout all grade levels.

In his opinion, freshmen and sophomores tend to be more “open and engaged,” while juniors and seniors have “many other things they’re thinking of… beyond high school.”

Throughout his career, Goodwin has seen the changes — both in the actual school building and in pupils’ workloads — that LAHS and its students have undergone.

“The looks have certainly changed after two years of those trucks driving around. It’s changed physically. I think that the profession has changed too. Teachers knew their subject, then they were left to teach it. I think that has changed. I think the students work harder now. They have less time than they did. Everyone just seems so busy,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin wishes to see students change the way they are learning in the future.

“I loved open ended projects and I think there isn’t as much time to do those than we used to have,” Goodwin said.
If anything, he has learned that he can effect change through his profession.
“I’ve learned that you really can have an impact and you really can make a difference in the world. I think that’s why we teach. We depend on these students. They’re really our future, and we depend on them to solve some of the problems we face. It’s interesting for them to come back, and to talk to them years later, and to see what trajectories their lives have taken,” Goodwin said.

At the end of the day, he just hopes to reflect on his career and see the connections he made with students over the years.

“That’s the important thing. When you look back on it, you see the connections you had with those students, which made it all worthwhile,” he said.