Perhaps Lisa Taylor could have used her physics degree to work for Boeing, SpaceX, but the 24-year-old opted to become a teacher.
Even after graduating from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in 2011, she continued hearing form top-notch companies needing physicists. But her career decision was solidified when she saw her first batch of students graduate from high school.
"That was it. I was going to be a teacher for life," Taylor said. "I had three moms cry to me at graduation because their kids got full rides for physics and they couldn't afford college otherwise."
Taylor, 24, is one of the newest teachers at Huntington Beach High School. She had taught at Santa Margarita Catholic High School for two years.
"From the second day, I had students tell me that she's their favorite teacher," Assistant Principal Jason Ross said. "I've been here for 10 years and that's not something you hear a lot. It takes time for a teacher to develop a reputation and for kids to be comfortable. But Lisa has a way with kids that makes them feel excited about learning."
By the third week of school, the physics teacher already had her students doing hands-on work outside the classroom.
Monday's lesson was on velocity and acceleration, and Taylor decided that the best way for the students to learn about the concepts was to experience them firsthand.
Tayler Little, 16, said she appreciates her teacher making physics fun and helping her see how it can be applied.
"She does real-life applications and shows us it instead of drawing a diagram on the board," the junior said.
Tayler's lab partner, junior James Hamill, 16, said Taylor "teaches traditional physics in an untraditional way" that catches the attention of her audience.
For one project, the teacher made around 10 plywood dollies, each with a carpeted top and a rope attached to one end. One student was designated to pull the cart while another sat on the mobile platform, marking the ground with a piece of chalk every second.
The others measured the distance between marks and jotted down the data on charts.
The wheels clacked every time they crossed the gaps between the concrete slabs, and the noise increased in frequency the faster the students and the dolly went.
Taylor even hitched a ride on one of the carts and helped the teens with their activity.
"I just wanted them to feel it and have fun with it," she said as her students laughed and yelled. "Most times when teachers do this lab, it's really dry because it's a simulation online."
Junior Ryan Talbot, 16, said he loves Taylor's peppiness when it comes to teaching and believes her enthusiasm is what makes her a great teacher.
"Teachers like her are few and far between, but they're good and you do come across them," he said.
Taylor's inspiration to make lessons more hands-on stems from her being able to relate to her students. She was 21 when she first taught at Santa Margarita and was surrounded by teens only three years younger than she.
"I remember how I was bored out of my mind in these classes," she said. "I hate power points. You can make power points fun, but there are ways to not, and I've seen a lot of that."
Her teaching approach fits well with the Common Core State Standards that are being implemented in today's schools.
"I just want them to learn how to problem-solve," Taylor said. "I want them to learn physics, but bigger than that, I want them to learn how to solve, apply and push through problems."