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Faculty Spotlight: Dan Padgett

By Hannah Jacobs, marketing and communications intern
Meet an Upper School science teacher who teaches his students to rise to conquer any challenge.
In Accelerated Physics with science educator and assistant baseball coach Dan Padgett, students begin the year by creating a can car. The freshmen are challenged to string weights and twist rubber bands across a plastic water bottle in an attempt to get their car to roll across the room. This lesson in problem-solving challenges students right off the bat and is the first step in Mr. Padgett’s ultimate goal of instilling confidence in his students. 

Mr. Padgett keeps science exciting by utilizing engaging demonstrations and hands-on activities to get students interested, and he later breaks down the science behind what they experienced. “It’s fun to guide them and spur their interest in science, as well as teach them some basic skills and problem-solving to help them develop their independent thought,” shares Mr. Padgett.

While pursuing his Ph.D. in neuroscience at UC San Diego, Mr. Padgett decided to shift his focus from research to teaching. He has been an educator at LJCDS since 2006, and teaching allows him to inspire interest and passion in science. From building bowling ball pendulums in Accelerated Physics to having his Honors Neuroscience students create a class website, there is never a shortage of excitement in any of Mr. Padgett’s science classes.

In the Honors Neuroscience class, Mr. Padgett challenges his seniors to a graduate-school-level activity to break down a primary research article and present it to the class. Students sit in a panel at the front of the room and are questioned about the article and justify their opinions in front of the class. This activity reminds his students that they possess the confidence to adapt to different situations and can rise to conquer any challenge. 

Amid COVID-19, Mr. Padgett is bringing his same passion for teaching into the e-learning/hybrid classes. In the spring, his Honors Neuroscience students worked in teams to create webpages researching different addictive drugs and their effects. He dedicated his time to developing demos and experiments from home for his physics classes and making videos to teach the material.

“Most of the seniors I have taught freshman year, so I’ve known them for a while and have seen them grow and mature,” says Mr. Padgett. “The thing that sticks in my head every year is that feeling at graduation. That emotional relationship and attachment that I develop every year [to my students] is pretty powerful and is something that brings me back to teaching.”

As much as Mr. Padgett imparts knowledge to his students, he has also evolved as both a teacher and a coach because of them. His students have taught him that teaching can be fun. They also remind him that it’s essential to have flexibility and fluctuation in class. As a collegiate and minor league baseball player, Mr. Padgett has the first-hand experience to coach baseball at LJCDS, yet he has continued to grow and evolve as a coach.  

“My first couple of years [coaching], I was so focused on the wins and losses,” says Mr. Padgett. “But, I really started to see the bigger picture as the years have gone on. It’s about growth and development—developing good young people. Teaching them to want to compete, to want to win, and teaching them the best way to do it. But also, helping guide them through the adversity and the struggles.”

Mr. Padgett takes very similar approaches to both teaching and coaching. He works to guide his students/athletes through their problems while allowing them to develop the confidence they’ll need to overcome obstacles in the future. “They can rise to meet lots of different challenges—not just ace a test, not just put together a really great research paper,” shares Mr. Padgett. “They can adapt to different situations, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop them when they get to college.”

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