Mount Vernon High School physics teacher Charles Sabatier believes school should be fun.
"Kids have to enjoy being in the classroom," said Sabatier. "They have to have fun."
Sabatier, who is also the school's science department chair, was recently named Fairfax County Public Schools 2012 Teacher of the Year.
Sabatier has also won the Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award for educational excellence, which is presented annually to a teacher in the Washington metropolitan area.
I think that it’s an incredible honor," said Sabatier. "It makes me sad that Fairfax County only honors one teacher in this way. There are so many great teachers at Mount Vernon I look up to who are equally accomplished and deserve this award. There are a lot of good teachers in Mount Vernon and in Fairfax County that should be recognized."
Sabatier incorporates games and demonstrations in his physics lessons to keep students engaged while learning, a method he calls "edutainment." Students play with giant Slinkys, toy cars, and even flying pigs.
"One thing I’ve learned over years is even through students have fun, they still have to be learning," said Sabatier. "We're still geared toward content we have to learn and the plethora of topics we have to cover."
Sabatier encourages students to collaborate on group projects in order to foster teambuilding. One recent project put students in a scenario where they were part of a bungee jumping company. Students formed teams to build a bungee system that could accomodate clients of different weights and had to prove to clients that the system was safe. The students demonstrated their systems using stuffed animals as their clients.
The schoolwide Major Time Cup Competition was Sabatier's brainchild he formed to encourage school spirit and unity, and foster team building and bonding between students and teachers. Major Time is a special period devoted to sustained silent reading activity and enrichment or remediation with classroom teachers.
“His vision of a competition between Major Time classes and the work that he has done to make it reality has literally changed the culture at MVHS,” said English teacher Melinda Bloomquist in a release. “Students feel supported, teachers enjoy building meaningful relationships with their students, and everyone enjoys the break from academics.”
Sabatier is a co-sponsor of the engineering and robotics club, sponsor of the Student Government Association, and member of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) committee. In his spare time, he and a community member studies an osprey that has a nest atop one of the lights in the football stadium stadium, and is part of an International Baccalaureate (IB) physics collaborative learning team with three IB physics teachers in Northern Virginia, funded by a grant he received from the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation.
Sabatier earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi and his master’s in curriculum and instruction from George Mason University. He has taught physics at Mount Vernon High School since 2003. He earned his certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in 2009.