Novi Physics Teacher Heads to White House for Honors
(Novi Schools, Aug. 28, 2016)
NOVI – During his teaching career, Brian Langley has challenged students to take ownership in learning.
Beginning next month, his 17th year in the Novi Community School District, Langley will once again infuse his high school classes with a sports metaphor meant to help students own their education.
“After my first semester of teaching I really was not satisfied with my performance as a teacher and I wanted to try and get my students to reach higher,” said Langley, a high school physics teacher. “I kind of dreamt up this slogan that I didn’t want them just to – I guess it wasn’t a slogan but an approach – I didn’t want them to just take my class. I wanted them to dominate it.”
Langley’s message has resonated with Novi High School students ever since.
Students can often be seen wearing T-shirts that proclaim “Dominate Life” on the front with a logo on the back depicting a pair of boxing gloves. Langley said, “I tell my students that I want them to think of those boxing gloves as one is their mind and one is their attitude; and when they put those two things together they can dominate.”
A true champion for his students, Langley’s enthusiasm and dedication to his craft has earned him a presidential invitation to the White House.
Next month, Langley will be among 213 educators from across the country who will receive the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award, presented annually since 1983, is the highest recognition that a kindergarten through high school math or science teacher may receive for their outstanding work in the United States.
“I was just excited to hear about it,” Langley said of the award. “It’s such a unique opportunity and I couldn’t wait to share it with my wife, who is also a science teacher.”
The 40-year-old Langley and his wife, Charlene, will attend the Sept. 8 ceremony, where he will receive a $10,000 gift from the National Science Foundation. Recipients are also invited to attend educational and celebratory events during their visit to Washington, D.C.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity to meet other science and mathematics teachers from around the country, to make some great connections,” Langley said. “But also to learn more about the National Science Foundation. They are the entity behind all of this, at least the professional development that goes on that week. So I am looking forward to the experience and hearing what else is going on around the country.”
Langley is the second NCSD teacher to receive the honor, joining former Novi Middle School teacher Kathleen Scullen, who was a recipient in 1987.
Candidates for the awards were nominated by colleagues, administrators, students, and parents of students, and were selected by a national panel of scientists and educators.
“The recipients of this award are integral to ensuring our students are equipped with critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are vital to our nation’s success,” President Barack Obama said in a press release. “As the United States continues to lead the way in the innovation that is shaping our future, these excellent teachers are preparing students from all corners of our country with the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills that help keep us on the cutting edge.”
It’s that kind of engagement with students that persuaded Novi High School principal Nicole Carter to nominate Langley for this year’s award. In her recommendation letter she described the physics teacher as someone who is “extremely organized, very conscientious, and exceptionally efficient in all of the duties that he not only is responsible for, but volunteers to complete.”
Carter continued, “Brian’s commitment to education is uncanny. His passion for teaching and learning is evident in his daily actions and words. Brian Langley exemplifies the very best that the teaching profession has to offer and his active participation in our school community is evidence of the high expectations he maintains for himself and those he encounters.”
Langley isn’t driven by personal accolades. He’s motivated by goals and the achievements reached by his students, especially those who previously thought of science as insurmountable.
“I am extremely self-reflective and always trying to find ways that I can do things better,” he said. “But the thing that makes me feel the best is when I hear back from students or the feedback I get from students when things are going really well for them.
“I have a couple goals in my classroom: I want them to learn as much in my classroom as in any other classroom, and I want them to enjoy and be as enthusiastic about what we’re learning as in any other class. When I get the sense from kids that I’m meeting that, then that’s what makes me happy. But, for the most part, I’m always trying to move forward and get better.”
Along with teaching, Langley is also a Science Content Area Leader for the district and serves on numerous committees, including one that led to the formation of Professional Learning Communities throughout NCSD.
While the national recognition is truly appreciated, Langley said the ceremony couldn’t come at a worse time.
“That happens to be the first week of school and the first week of school is my favorite week of the entire school year,” he said. “I’m going to be missing the students that I really would like to get to know.”
Learn more about Novi Schools at www.novi.k12.mi.us.
Novi Physics Teacher Heads to White House for Honors