Perryville High School physics teacher Laura Ernst has earned national recognition by being named one of nine 2021 Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) Local Teachers of the Year. These regional honorees were recently recognized along with National Teacher of the Year David Wirth of Goodyear, Ariz.
“I was honored to even be considered for this award,” Ernst said. She was nominated by Southeast Missouri State University and Perryville High School.
Ernst has been a member of the District 32 family since joining the Perryville High School faculty in 2007. She holds a bachelor of science degree in physics, and a master’s degree in natural science in STEM education.
“I really enjoy teaching students and being around people learning and developing their understanding of the world around them,” Ernst said. “That’s what I’ve most enjoyed about teaching here over these 14 years.”
PHS Principal Jeff Steffens said Ernst is good at building relationships with her students.
“Laura is a teacher who is driven to positively impact our students,” he said. “She doesn’t work to receive accolades or thanks, but loves to share her passion and knowledge with her students. Her goal is to prepare students for a better future.
“I have always been impressed by Laura’s dedication to her students. She is a tireless worker and she brings high expectations to her students in her physics classes,” Steffens added. “Having our educational world rocked by a pandemic this past year, Laura made sure that the students understood the concepts and skills that are required to be successful. Laura’s enthusiasm for physics is displayed on a daily basis to her students.”
Steffens said Ernst started the STEM Club at PHS.
Ernst said she’s also a learner. “I’ve learned how to not sweat the small stuff,” she said. “I have learned a lot about even the subject I teach and how other people learn. I have learned how to be more patient and also how to gain the attention of a large group at one time.”
Ernst encourages young people to explore the sciences. “Science is not just one topic, even if you aren’t good at one aspect it doesn’t mean all avenues are closed to you,” she said. “While others may be afraid of physics, I have always felt that if I can do it so can others, it is all about the level of effort you want to put in.”
Ernst works with teens all day, and would like adults to know one thing: “They work really hard but they learn differently than other generations did in the past,” she said. “ Overall, they are the same kids we were back in our day. They just have different things available in their lives than we did.”
She and her husband Nathan have two children, Paige Meyer and Greyson Ernst, and the family has a cat named Shadow. Laura Ernst is the daughter of Bernard L. Meyer and Penny Meyer.
Additional information about the award can be found onlinel at phystec.org/awards/teacher-of-the-year/2021.