PERA Member Spotlight: A Day in the Life of an AP Science Teacher

July 13, 2017

You only need to spend a few minutes with Ben Magtutu to understand that he loves teaching. For 15 years, Ben has been an Advanced Placement (AP) science teacher at Delta High School in Delta, CO. But despite his beaming enthusiasm, Ben wasn't always animated. For him, science sparked a part of his personality that he hadn't really seen before. He explains, "After finding science in high school, I went from a hum-drum, bored teenager to feeling this amazement about the elegant design of the universe." Talk about a transformation. 

Through his interest in science, Ben came to realize that the happenings of the universe aren't determined by random, meaningless events, but instead controlled by specific principles. The laws of science were so attractive to him (no pun intended), they actually came to dictate the course of his life. 

After graduating high school, Mr. Magtutu attended Colorado State University, ultimately graduating with a degree in life sciences. To earn extra money on the side, he began tutoring other students in his field, and soon came to another life-altering realization: he was a really, really good teacher. He graduated from CSU, spent some time traveling in South America (because, #YOLO), and finally returned to start his long-term career in Colorado's school districts. After spending a few years boucing around different high schools, Ben finally settled on Delta High School after he and his wife relocated to the Western Slope. "I feel so lucky here," he says. "By far, Colorado is my favorite state. I get to be on the Western Slope—my favorite part of my favorite state. And Delta is my favorite city."

With a decade and a half of teaching under his belt, Ben feels just as passionate about the diverse student body he encounters every day as he does about the subject he teaches. “Maybe it’s a little selfish of me,” Ben admitted, “but I feel like I really make a difference with the students I teach. They don’t all grow up with every possible resource, but that gives me an opportunity to impact them with my passion for teaching and science.” For Ben, as for more teachers, his profession of choice has never been about salary. Instead, his goal is to help students see the relevance of physics and science to their every day lives, and hopefully have the same "Aha!" moment he had himself in high school. He believes wholeheartedly in the satisfaction that physics brings to explaining the myseteries of the physical world, and identifies the physics teacher in any school as "probably the happiest teacher in the building."

In addition to his years of teaching, Mr. Magtutu has worked with the Colorado Legacy Foundation to expand Delta's Advanced Placement course offerings, helping the foundation increase the number of students in AP classes by over 400% (from 38 to 180 students). He's also received extensive training from the foundation in order to "up" his teaching game—which he says makes him "better for all of his students."

Beyond impacting the lives of his students, Ben strives to "live every day to the fullest;" we're pretty convinced he has.