Metro physics teacher educates 250 students in one semester

Rather than cut the program in half, Justin Montenegro stepped up and told school administrators he could teach all the physics classes.

Across the Mid-state, schools are dealing with a teacher shortage -- specifically in the sciences.

At one Metro School, a man took it upon himself to teach 250 students in one semester because there was no one else qualified for the job.

At Hume-Fogg High School, a physics teacher recently retired and the school had a hard time finding a qualified replacement.

Physics is a required course for all juniors. Seniors and honor students also study physics.

So, rather than cut the program in half, fellow teacher Justin Montenegro stepped up and told school administrators he could teach all the physics classes.

“I see all 250 on most days,” Montenegro said. “It didn't seem like much of a question because the other option seemed to be that half of the students wouldn't get around to taking physics. I think it's an important cornerstone to a good science education."

Montenegro has been teaching physics for 12 years.

“Of all the sciences, it's the most hands-on,” he said.

He has help from a teacher's aide -- his wife, Kristin.

“We knew what we were getting into when we were planning it out,” he said. “She handles a lot of the logistics where I drive the course and instruction.”

Humm-Fogg Principal Kellie Hargis says there is a great need for physics teachers, and at Metro Schools specifically, they are seeing a lack of qualified science, math and technology educators when interviewing new candidates.

“It’s a desperate need, I'm sorry to say,” said Hargis. “There are so very few going into the teaching field in science, physics especially.”

However, with desperate need comes financial incentive for qualified teachers looking to work in Nashville.

If a new physics teacher signed on with Hume-Fogg today, they could receive as much as a $1,500 sign-on bonus.

“We just need the help of those out there who are interested in those fields, who can bring those credentials, that passion for teaching children,” Hargis said.

Montenegro says he is optimistic that students will consider a career involving science and physics -- and perhaps, one of his students will decide to teach physics themselves.

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