Beloved Norman physics teacher announces retirement

May 8—After 37 years of teaching and nine nominations for Norman Public Schools Teacher of the Year, a popular high school physics teacher is retiring from Norman High School.

David Askey never meant to get into teaching because he thought the classroom was boring.

He loved physics, graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1982 and decided to get a job in Dallas doing research and development.

But when an opportunity to teach in Norman presented itself four years later, Askey said yes and used a natural disliking for classroom settings to captivate his students.

Over the years, he has used technology to reach students outside the classroom, and in recent years he has developed his closest relationships with his students and alumni through his social media platforms and websites, which he uses for instruction.

Askey's intention was to teach for a couple years and leave.

"So I thought, well, 'I'll teach for a couple years while I'm going to school, and that's it,'" he said.

He realized he had a knack for connecting with his students.

"I've never taught a subject the same way twice, because there's always a better way to teach it," he said.

In 2015, Askey created a class Facebook Page that he uses today, one where he invites students to join and access class resources. It is also a way he can keep tabs on them in a non-classroom setting.

His alumni and friends are invited to join Askey's Physics Show, a Facebook page where he passes along information to a greater audience. Currently, there are 1,000 people who receive updates in the group on anything physics-related.

Had Askey stayed on another year, he would have changed things up, yet again.

"If I were to teach again, I wouldn't use Facebook," he said.

He chose Facebook because at the time, it was more user friendly than WordPress and other blogging websites. With different options, he decided he would try using a website that is more accessible.

"Kids need to join Facebook to do it, and these days, they just don't," he said. "If I were to do it again, I'd drop Facebook, launch a new website, and have a larger Instagram page."

Norman High Principal Hallie Wright said Askey has succeeded as a teacher for as long as he is because he uses different resources to inspire curiosity.

"David Askey's legacy is the countless students that he has empowered to become lifelong learners and seekers of truth, who will continue to push the boundaries of scientific discovery and make the world a better place for all," Wright said. "His legacy is that students will continue to explore the mysteries of the cosmos and pursue knowledge that will inspire future generations to push the boundaries of what is possible."

Wright said Askey's methods are integral to modern teaching, not just for engaging students interested in the subject, but connecting to students who struggle with the discipline.

"By making science accessible, we create a more inclusive learning environment that values the diversity of all learners," she said. "Providing accessible resources levels the playing field for students and ensures that they have equitable opportunities to learn and succeed in the hard sciences."

On his YouTube page, Askey has uploaded nearly 400 instructional videos to better help his students understand his lessons.

Askey said he once had a student with a developmental disability who would not speak in class. He was concerned the student was not understanding the lessons being taught. In one of the social media forms, the student became an active user and was able to participate as well as any student in the class.

"Some kids won't say a word in class, but they will on GroupMe or Facebook. That's where they shine," he said.

Norman Public Schools superintendent Nick Migliorino said he has known Askey for many years, and he has come to appreciate how he teaches and connects with his students.

"Throughout his career, his engaging and fun teaching style has made science accessible to students and helped them fall in love with the subject, not just at Norman High but also through other avenues like his Facebook page," he said. "He genuinely cares about his students, and generations of students who have come in contact with David have truly benefited from having him as a teacher."

In 1999, Askey launched the Norman High School Rocketry program, and he started the current robotics program in 2000.

"We have been competing in Botball and have won Regionals approximately half a dozen times," he said.

His teams won the world competition in 2005, 2006 and 2018. Nine times he was nominated for NHS Teacher of the Year. He won twice and was a finalist for District Teacher of the Year twice.

Brian King covers education and politics for The Transcript. Reach him at bking@normantranscript.com.