Physics teacher earns legendary status

November 28, 2017 — by Elaine Toh and Ananya Vadlakonda

“Tony Chestnut knows I love you,” echoed throughout the halls of the science building during the year. Inside Physics teacher Kirk Davis’ room, drowsy students danced, after yawning and almost dozing off during a grueling lecture on quantum mechanics.

This children’s song’s silly lyrics and hilarious movements enlivened his students, and they began to point to their toe, knee, chest and head. Davis’ “Tony Chestnut” dance can only be described as “hard to explain” by senior Keon Roohparvar.

Throughout his 10 years at SHS, Davis’ class traditions like “Tony Chestnut” have made the physics teacher a student favorite. Because his classes are among the most rigorous courses the school has to offer, Davis tries to incorporate many humorous and lively moments as part of the curriculum.

He also uses innovative and fun labs and demonstrations to teach concepts. Once in a demonstration for the conservation of momentum in his AP Physics class, Davis threw a 90-pound ball to junior Justin Sun who was sitting in a cart. Instead of being propelled off, Sun did not budge, much to his surprise.

Students, of course, love such moments.

“It was always refreshing to see physics principles coming to life,” senior JR Im said.

In another lab, this one with toilet paper, students have to determine the distance required for two rolls to touch the ground at the same time: one fully rolled up and the other unraveling as it falls.

“It’s a sophisticated calculation, and it makes its point [about rotational inertia],” Davis said. “But it is kind of fun since we are using toilet paper. I’m kind of a 16-year-old at heart in a way, and I like to do that stuff.”

Other than his innovative labs, Davis is also known for the personal stories he tells to his class.

For instance, Davis has frequently told the story about being locked in a parking garage with his then girlfriend. Unable to escape, he had to break out since his girlfriend needed to be home at a certain time.

Senior Charles Qi remembers another time when Davis told his class about fixing a water pipe in his swimming pool at 2 a.m.

“Most of his stories aren’t super eventful,” Qi said. “It’s just the way he says things that makes them super funny.”

By sharing some of these personal and memorable experiences with his students, Davis is able to build close bonds with them. He believes that these connections lead to his students caring more for the class, and as a result working harder.

“I think that if you have some sort of relationship or you feel like you’ve let a teacher down by not studying or completing the homework, that is really good for the teacher,” Davis said.

Seeing the lengths that Davis will go to, students appreciate efforts that go beyond normal classroom.

According to Im, she once went to his classroom after school and Davis showed her how to make a homemade record player out of a piece of paper, a push pin and a rotating stand.

“I haven't seen anything like that before and it was exciting to learn how record players work,” Im said. “He was a really welcoming teacher after school and his classroom is full of things that will arouse your curiosity.”

 

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