Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Linda Walter

Students in Linda Walter's physics classes don't just memorize facts and equations, they learn concepts through the most real-world situations her money can buy.

When they learn about velocity, for instance, they drop balls and springs over motion detectors to see how motion is accelerated due to gravity. A computer graphs the velocity.

Walter's goal is to get her students thinking like scientists.

The experiments aren't cheap, and Walter has added "grant writer" to her list of skills. She also pays for experiments out of her own pocket.

"Linda's the type that will get involved in projects outside of school," Payson High principal John Penrod said. "She went to a program where she earned a $6,000 electronic telescope that she brought back to school and then started an astronomy class for students to go out in the evening. She plans activities where they meet after dark and observe stars, talking about beginning stars and those burning out."

"I like to do research in astronomy at BYU and with nuclear reactors at Idaho State," Walter said. "And last year I went to Fermilab (National Accelerator Laboratory) in Illinois and worked with high-energy particle physics. They're looking at what makes up atoms and is there anything smaller."

The 23-year teacher grew up on a farm in Payson. She teaches in the same classroom where she took physics in 1970, when she was the only girl in the class. Now, 50 percent of her students are female. She has taught science at Payson High her entire career.

Her proudest accomplishment, however, was raising a brood that included 15 children and step-children. One is a chemist, one is a chemistry teacher and a third is graduating from college next year in chemistry and math.