Monday, June 2, 2014

Office Hours: Professor Robert Tai

Office Hours

Professor Robert Tai

By Chelsea Marcelin

One of my personal favorite professors that I have had at UVa is Professor Robert Tai in the Curry School of Education. Professor Tai began at the University in August of 2001 and has been working in the Curry School since then!

Want to learn more about him? Let’s hear some from Professor Tai himself:

How you became involved in your field:
“I always had an interest in teaching, but I also liked physics. I came up with this plan when I was in high school to become a college professor and I could teach physics. So I went to the University of Florida and earned two Bachelors degrees in Physics and Mathematics and then I went to the University of Illinois to become a physicist. After teaching and doing research in the Physics Department, I realized I wanted to teach more than do physics research and that's when I decided to become a high school physics teacher. After teaching physics for three years, I went back to graduate school to become a college professor, but this time in education. I got a doctorate from Harvard in 1998 and I've been a college professor in education ever since.”

Favorite thing about UVa:
“My favorite thing about UVa is my students. I am still in touch with some of them even years later. I love hearing about their lives and what they have done since they graduated.”

Funny Story/Memory from a class:
“I have a hoverdisk. I made it to help my students understand Newton's Laws of Motion. One of the activities I do in my class is to have my students pull their classmates around on the hoverdisk. (OBTW, it can carry up to about 600 lbs and it's very loud.) This activity turned into a hoverdisk "race" where students pull their teammates around a classroom course three times. The first trip has one rider, the second trip has two riders, and the third trip has three riders. Each round, another rider hops on. I have time penalties for going off-course to discourage speeding. As you might guess, things can get a little competitive and people try to win. (I take the winners out for lunch.) One semester, in a rush to board the hoverdisk, one of my students hopped on. Up until that moment I had always thought "hop on" was an expression that meant get on cautiously and with great care. Apparently, the student took it more literally than I had anticipated.  She jumped on to the hoverdisk. I did not know that a hoverdisk will bounce when someone jumps on it. The first rider and the second rider, both bounced off. I was surprised. Both students were laughing. And shortly thereafter the entire class was laughing. It ended up costing them some time to get back up and get back on. That team didn't end up winning the race. But it was a very memorable moment. (I believe there is a video.)” 

** Professor Tai’s favorite memory from a class just so happens to also be my favorite memory from his class. I was, in fact, the student who fell off the hoverdisk - such a hilarious and fun class that day.

Want to take a class with Professor Tai? He is most famous for his Science in the Elementary School (EDIS-5330), which he has taught at UVa since 2002! Check him out!!!!!

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