Defying the laws

How Ellison’s teaching style is shattering the norms


Bryce Rotfeld

Ellison explains his class’ upcoming lab during his eighth hour AP Physics class.

Braydon Huffar, Contributing Writer

As Ryan Ellison teaches his unit on magnetism his classroom at McHenry Upper Campus fills with laughter. A volume that can only mean every student is at attention and involved. Attention is grabbed through a hands-on learning environment with a sprinkle of humor and a dash of sarcasm. This is a sight that isn’t common in many classrooms at MCHS. Ellison’s involved teaching style and hands-on learning environment  produces a learning benefit that many don’t expect especially in one of the school’s hardest courses.

Ellison’s teaching style was influenced by his experiences in high school. His previous physics teacher inspired much of his antics.  “He was very energetic with the way that he taught and he made the subject actually fun,” Ellison explained. This teaching energy made him fall in love with the subject filled with enough attraction towards it that he even became a teacher for the subject. But he doesn’t just teach it, he embodies it.“ I try to incorporate a little humor, test out my standup. If I’m going to be here it’s got to be fun for me,” explained Ellison.

Other science classes focus more on presentations and lectures, while Ellison’s physics classes are day-to-day hands-on interactions. Ellison says,  “teachers can’t just sit up there and lecture kids, science is about doing stuff.” His philosophy makes sure that kids understand what they’re solving for. In fact, his system for labs is designed to show students how it applies in the real world.“I do a lot of labs because it shows the students where the equations come from out of the lab,” Ellison explained. Besides making sure that students understand the practical involvement with equations, he values the fostering of proper problem solving abilities; abilities that can help someone no matter the situation. “The premise is to try and get students to think for themselves and solve problems, I think you do that by having kids work together,” Ellison states. His style of education leads to development that promotes great skills for someone’s future, something he believes is necessary for everyone.

The skills that physics class provides are all real life skills. Yes you won’t be calculating friction coefficients on a coffee mug but the ability to problem solve while being given nothing is a valuable skill. “I think that any kid getting out of high school should take physics; your whole life is going to be one whole problem, and physics is all about problem solving,” Ellison said. Students spend all their school life learning these random equations that we are told will be relevant forever, yet never see them. Physics takes these equations and shows us how they actually apply. “ Y=mx+b actually has a point because you can derive equations out of a linear graph.”

Ellison’s method of teaching is the perfect equation. No points left unknown, every variable with a findable source. His teaching style fosters individual problem solving and attentive learning; With a background of comedy. The learning these students have completed will resonate with them for times unmeasured.