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Physics teacher is on top form

News | Published in TESS on 23 November, 2012 | By: Henry Hepburn

Charismatic Scot scoops prestigious award for excellence in Advanced Higher. Henry Hepburn reports

An East Ayrshire physics teacher has been named one of the subject’s best practitioners in the UK. Colin Barbour, of St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock, was one of eight winners of the Teachers of Physics Award 2012, and the only one from Scotland.

The Institute of Physics, which runs the awards, noted that Mr Barbour was an “exceptional and charismatic teacher” who had established St Joseph’s as a centre of excellence for Advanced Higher physics.

He was “willing to go the extra mile for students”, running after-school classes and an Advanced Higher class open to pupils from all East Ayrshire schools.

Judges noted that he played a pivotal role in founding the Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society, encouraging pupils to attend its lectures, and had built “valuable links” with industry.

A former pupil, Jordan Watson, said: “When I first entered secondary school, I was not particularly interested in physics. But when Colin became my teacher, the enthusiasm with which he taught the course was contagious and immediately I became attracted to focusing my school activities around physics and maths.”

Mr Watson, who graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in civil engineering and has found a job in the industry, recalled his Advanced Higher project, on the use of capacitors. It involved considerable after-school work, but Mr Barbour devoted an “extraordinary amount of time and effort” to such endeavours.

Another former pupil, Maire Gorman, who has gone on to study physics at the University of Oxford and study for a PhD on the ExoMol project at University College London, travelled from her own school, Grange Academy, to do Advanced Higher physics at St Joseph’s.

She recalled Mr Barbour “being incredibly flexible and willing to help” any time she wanted to set up and perform long-running experiments.

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