Saturday, September 3, 2011


What can I say about Mr. Jackson and Physics? Wow, there may be enough to write a whole book. I don't even know where to start with him. For someone who didn't know him, I might explain the phenomenon that was Mr. Jackson as similar to the Kinetic King on the current season of America's Got Talent. Take ultra nerdy and mix in stuff blowing up, and you have an exciting show. Unlike the Kinetic King, who is probably the nicest man in the world, Mr. Jackson mixed in a dose of mean, but I think we all knew deep inside he was mean because he loved us and wanted us to succeed. Very deep down. And well disguised.

The AP class actually required an introductory physics class as a prerequisite, but to get around that, they taught both the introductory and advanced class simultaneously. My school had an A/B block schedule, where you'd alternate attending your A classes (periods 1-4) and B classes (periods 5-6) every other day for twice as long as a normal class. It could get tedious, because you were in the same class for an hour and a half or so at a time, but it could be nice, since you were always guaranteed at least two days to do your homework. Not with physics, though, since that was held every day.

The classroom was filled with Van de Graaff generators, magnets, hydrogen and oxygen tanks, batteries, and machines to move balloons around en route to being blown up. We sent an electrical charge from a generator through the whole class, holding hands, to the last two class members who held their fingers over a Bunsen burner and lit it with the spark that jumped between their fingertips. We blew up countless hydrogen balloons by calculating where the balloon would be at the exact moment a flaming ball would be catapulted across the room. To add excitement, Mr. Jackson would put on these old Sousa march records so they'd blow up to Stars and Stripes Forever and other great songs.

Each year the physics assembly was one of the most popular events. There was lip syncing behind huge Fresnel lenses, freezing all sorts of things in liquid nitrogen, and many more fun demonstrations, capped off by blowing up hundreds of hydrogen balloons in the dark to John Philip Sousa.

We made shirts with Mr. Jackson's face on the front and his wacky sayings on the back and wore them to the Physics Day competition at Lagoon, the local amusement park. We would send 20 teams to compete and gather around the single team of the most nerdy students the other schools could find, wearing our matching shirts and cheering each other on.

I took the Electricity and Magnetism class the next year, because I loved physics so much, but it was hard enough that I decided not to take the E&M AP tests, in spite of easily passing the regular AP Physics test the previous year. He inspired me to be an engineering major in college; that only lasted my freshman year before I moved into business, but the impression he left was lasting.

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