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AIAA Foundation 2013 Educator Achievement Award Winners

Every two years, the AIAA Foundation recognizes up to seven outstanding educators for their accomplishments in exciting K-12 students about math and science and preparing them to use and contribute to tomorrow's technologies.

Each recipient of the Educator Achievement Award will receive an expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC for the Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala in May 2013. The visit includes a tour of Washington, DC, plus travel and lodging. It's a trip and celebration they'll never forget.

Please join AIAA in congratulating these seven incredible educators. They are responsible for inspiring their students to aim high and dream big. Their impact on their students is seen every day as those students compete successfully in various competitions and continue to study Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) at some of the best universities. We interviewed them and asked why they do what they do.....there were some very insightful answers.

 

 

 

Berry-Lanena   Lanena Berry
Johnston Middle School
Houston, TX 

  1. When did you decide that you wanted to become an educator?

  2. I was always taught to do the things I loved and to do them well. When it came time to declare a major in college, I thought about my positive experiences working with 4 and 5 year-olds at the Ed White Memorial Youth Center in Seabrook, TX. I decided to go into teaching, and I’m glad I did.


  3. What makes you excited about working with your students?

  4. Things like what happened today………A group of my eighth graders love to challenge me trying to prove me wrong. I encourage this and play it up a bit since it promotes critical thinking which, in my opinion, is the most important knowledge a kid can have. Anyway, today’s question was, “Ms. Berry, if matter is neither created nor destroyed, then where did the matter come from for the Big Bang.” We called some folks at NASA and the kids got to hear their answer which was, of course, “We don’t exactly know, but……..” It came about that I was able to use that non-answer, we think it may be this or that, moment to encourage my students to become the ones who find the answer! That excites me.


  5. What are the greatest challenges that you face as you inspire your students?

  6. There is a vast community eager and willing to come into the schools and help ease the burden of educating tomorrow’s society. In four years, I’ve easily had over a hundred professionals from around the Houston area come into my classroom to enrich and inspire my students. Numerous companies have donated money to my program for experiments in space, field trips, materials, etc. Educational programs like Nasa Explorer Schools, Geoforce, GCTAME, Breakthrough Houston---all those and more are there to help. Local universities and colleges are invaluable sources of knowledge and reach out en masse to support our efforts. Professional organizations like AIAA reach out to educators and classrooms across America wanting to help.

    The challenge for most educators is that there is little time for such endeavors due to strict curricular requirements and state testing standards. I am in a unique position as an AVID teacher to provide these opportunities and experiences as part of my curriculum. I wish there was more of that in our schools.


  7. Can you tell us about a time when you knew that your teaching had made a difference with a student or their family?

  8. This one is easy. Four years ago on the second day of school, Jefferson walked up to me and said, “I’m sorry, Ms., but I don’t want to stay in this class.” I asked why and he said because I was too mean. I told him that he hadn’t even given me a real chance yet and he stayed. I’ve followed and guided him through the years, providing opportunities, encouragement, and a fair bit of advice even though he often teaches me more than I do him, nowadays. He has flourished and is now on the verge of getting numerous college acceptance letters and most likely quite a few scholarships. He’s grown from a boy who was insecure and scared in eighth grade to the young man who created his school’s ecology club, attended and now counsels at the Lorenzo de Zalvala Hispanic Leadership Institute, is a true leader at his school, and most importantly to me, is a young man who truly wants to make a better world and has already despite his circumstances. At the beginning of every school year, I find a reason to visit Jefferson’s school and let them know what potential he has, etc. This year, his principal, Rob Gasparello, who is featured in the PBS documentary “Dropout Nation,” indicated to me that he already knew all about Jefferson and that he was, "One of the students I call for to fix a problem on campus. He's a leader here."


  9. Why aerospace education?

  10. My dad was a pilot and as a little girl I played with every gadget and medal that he had. I liked to plot courses on his maps and play with the toys (tools) in his flight bag. He worked for a small company called Metro Airlines located right down the street from Ellington AFB and a few miles from NASA. I hung out in the hangers, rode jumpseat back in the day when that was allowed, and hung out with the CAP students and dabbled a bit with aeronautics class and such. I grew up in the Clear Lake area during the space shuttle era. I was the 12 year old girl sailing circles around the barge carrying a stage of the Saturn IV. In 1986, I worked at the Ed White Memorial Youth Center where I had access to a fascinating library of Apollo era information. Also that year, I sat in a classroom at Clear Lake High School and watched the Challenger explode. I played women’s soccer with a couple of the women who wrote the launch programs.

    It’s no wonder that when presented with the opportunity to work on STEM without restraint, I took the leap with the help of many people who may or may not have known what they were getting into. Special thanks go out to: Elizabeth Weissinger, NASA ACR, Amber Pinchback, associate dean, Johnston Middle School, and Cindy Dinneen, JMS librarian, as well as Dave Wheat and Wenden Sanders, both principals who never said no. Without their support, encouragement, hard work, dedication, and willingness to take risks, none of this would have happened.


  11. What is something that we would not know about you from reading the nomination package?

  12. There’s a lot to this question. I’m a former athlete and an active coach. I believe I am a ground-breaker in women’s sports as when I started there were only boy’s teams to play on available for girls. I endured a bit of hardship with stereotypes and such but with the encouragement and support of my family, I rose in the ranks to a national athlete at a time when women were not really valued as athletes or much of anything other than good housewives. I am so thrilled that this is changing in a positive direction, and I truly feel that myself and my friends have broken ground for the young ladies who will follow us. I tend to have more powerful women guest speakers than men, and I actively encourage my girls to pursue STEM opportunities, and my girls often outshine my boys. I coach my girl’s soccer players to love the sport and to be proud of their skills.


  13. What is the best piece of advice you would give someone when working with students?

  14. NEVER give up! Don’t say that there are too many problems with a particular child that no one can do anything. Find someone. They are out there. Provide opportunities. Think of your students as your own children. They will blossom. We can’t be everywhere all the time, but we can be somewhere for someone-----all the time.


 

Dabrowski-Elizabeth   Elizabeth Dabrowski
Magnificat High School
Rocky River, OH  


  1. When did you decide that you wanted to become an educator?

  2. I decided to become an educator in 1978. I had studied to be an analytical chemist and when I was in graduate school, I had two part-time jobs. The first was as a tutor at the local community college and the second was as a Science and Chemistry teacher at the Yavne High School of the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland. But I was determined to work in industry. I was not successful in getting a job and instead contacted the Diocesan Education Office to find out if there were any openings and began teaching at St. Ignatius High School. After two years I left with an idea of going to medical school but instead decided to go back to John Carroll University to complete the courses needed for certification. After completing all the course work and student teaching, I began teaching at Magnificat High School and have been there for these many years since 1979. About 10 years later, I was fortunate enough to spend a summer as a teacher intern at the BF Goodrich lab and I discovered that I really loved teaching so much more than laboratory work and I have never looked back again.


  3. What makes you excited about working with your students?

  4. My students are very excited to learn new things. They are very hard working and while they moan and groan about studying Chemistry, they are a delight to teach. Many have dreams of majoring in a science related field in college and many have done just that. Two years ago I shared some songs that have been created by a science teacher on You Tube. This got some of the students so excited about these science songs that they downloaded them on their iPods and were making the entire family listen to Chemistry music around the dinner table.

    Last year one of the students put in a great deal of effort to prepare a recipe that was published in the American Chemical Society’s High School Chemistry Clubs Cookbook which is available for sale nationally.

    Their participation in the AIAA sponsored Young Astronaut Day event at the NASA Glenn Research center demonstrates their ability to work together to solve problems and their excitement about science. They all enjoy meeting the astronaut and trying to win the events. This in turn makes it exciting to teach them.


  5. What are the greatest challenges that you face as you inspire your students?

  6. The greatest challenges have changed over the years. Early on in my career, the challenge was that I would make my classes more interesting because I was new and somewhat tied to my notes. Now the challenge is coming more from the students who are drawn in all directions with all the modern technology that surrounds them. Cell phones, iPods, iPads, Kindles all offer more attractions than waiting for a reaction to take place in the lab or to spend a lengthy time learning a less than exciting topic like significant figures. The students also are torn in many directions because they are very involved in athletics and many of them work afterschool jobs and this leaves them with limited time for extra study and finds them tired the next day in school.

    The challenge for most educators is that there is little time for such endeavors due to strict curricular requirements and state testing standards. I am in a unique position as an AVID teacher to provide these opportunities and experiences as part of my curriculum. I wish there was more of that in our schools.


  7. Can you tell us about a time when you knew that your teaching had made a difference with a student or their family?

  8. Two students that I taught at Magnificat in the 1990s come to mind as well as one of the young men I taught at St. Ignatius in the 1970s. Christine came from a working class family that had some financial difficulties. She worked three jobs to pay her tuition. She became involved as a freshman in the Chemistry Club that I moderated and then was in my Chemistry class. From her club activity, she was able to become part of a US First Team that took her to national competition. She was also the president of the club as a senior. She went on to college to be a chemistry/education major and is a very successful high school chemistry teacher today.

    The second student was bound and determined to be a physician because her dad is a physician. However, AP Chemistry was not easy for her. On the other hand, she displayed a great deal of talent with computers. Along with the Guidance Counselor, I convinced her to major in engineering and she became a computer engineer. She worked for Daimler Chrysler and University Hospitals. Unfortunately, Lydia died at the age of 32. Even today when I attend her church festival, members of the church and members of her family come to me and tell me what an important part I played in Lydia’s life.

    John Sygielski is the President of the Harrisburg Area Community College. John was my student at St. Ignatius. He had a difficult time in Chemistry and I sent him a progress report all four quarters of that year. About 30 years after I taught John, he sent those progress reports back to me with the comment that my caring about his learning made a great deal of difference in his life. When I had him write a letter of recommendation for myself, he said that I always had confidence in him and helped him see himself as successful and so he knew he could achieve great things.


  9. Why aerospace education?

  10. I do not teach aerospace science directly. I weave it into my Chemistry courses. I have taught Chemistry in all my years of teaching. I originally began college as Physics major because I was simply fascinated by space and wanted to work at NASA Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center. However, I was finding myself more successful in and enjoying more the Chemistry classes I was taking. My Uncle Leonard influenced me in my love of Chemistry. He lived with us when I was in school. He was a research chemist with Standard Oil of Ohio. I was about 9 or 10 when he took me to a family visit day at the then new laboratory and I got to look through an electron microscope for the first time. It was very exciting and something I thought I would like to do in the future. The women chemists who worked with him also impressed me. They could be feminine while also being excellent scientists.


  11. What is something that we would not know about you from reading the nomination package?

  12. Some things you would not know from my application:


    1. My story was part of the book How Jane Won by Sylvia Rimm, PhD.
    2. I love to sing as a part of our church choir.
    3. I love live theater and spent 18 years as a Volunteer at Playhouse Square in Cleveland and so I don’t know how many times I have see Les Miserables.
    4. I am a charter member of the National Mole Day Foundation.
    5. I appeared on our local It’s Academic TV Program as a high school senior and returned to the program as a teacher mentor many years later.
    6. As a part of an energy and environment summer course for teachers I went down into a deep coal mine in St. Clairsville, OH
    7. As a part of a trip to Poland, I visited the salt mine in Wieliczka.

  13. What is the best piece of advice you would give someone when working with students?

  14. I would tell someone starting out in working with young people to remember that they are young. Sometimes they don’t think, and say and do things that they shouldn’t but almost all of the time they are wonderful. They want you to be an adult in their lives. Be friendly to them, laugh with them but do not act as if you are one of their peers. Remember that you are a role model to the young people. They watch what you do and how you do it. Be prepared for class. Students can tell if a teacher cares enough to be prepared and knows their material. Most of all, I would say enjoy yourself. The students keep you young. You get to know the latest pop artists, dance steps and technology. They are full of hope and enthusiasm and as you get older that is exactly what you need. This week, my fellow Chemistry teachers and I were creating a scenario for our flame test/spectrum lab and have the girls setting Prince Liam of the Kingdom of Lost Direction free from the Evil Queen Electronika. (Hopefully you know we are talking of one of the members of One Direction.) Where else could three adults write a story like this and get paid for it?!?


 

Marvin-Lisa-Damian    Lisa M Damian-Marvin
Camden Hills Regional High School
Rockport ME 

 

  1. When did you decide that you wanted to become an educator?

  2. I went to college with the goal of becoming a chemist. In my senior year as a chemistry major, I found myself poor and in need of a source of money; the best-paying job I could find was acting as a teaching assistant for the lab portion of a chemistry course for nursing majors. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I enjoyed teaching infinitely more than doing the chemistry research that I had assumed I would become my career. After graduating with a BA in chemistry, I promptly started working towards earning my teaching credentials. And the rest, as they say, is history.


  3. What makes you excited about working with your students?

  4. They do! I truly enjoy the outlook, curiosity and humor that accompany a high school classroom. Especially when their interest is piqued and their motivation is high, teenagers are incredibly enjoyable to interact with. Their questions and observations help you to see the world in ways that you’ve never considered, and their desire to understand and make a difference in the world around them inspires me to make my classroom the best it can be, filled with wonder and inquiry and real-life applications. I feel honored to have the opportunity every day to be part of shaping the interests and aspirations of the next generation.


  5. What are the greatest challenges that you face as you inspire your students?

  6. The greatest challenge is to maximize the engagement of all students, all of the time. Content must be continually updated to reflect students’ experiences. Student interests change from class to class and year to year, necessitating changing focus questions, projects, and labs. Students’ abilities differ widely, and I must be able to craft an individual experience for each student that allows them to be challenged but not overwhelmed. And I need to do all of that within the confines of the school budget, class time, and educational policies that are a reality of my position. 24 hours a day often doesn’t even come close to being enough time!


  7. Can you tell us about a time when you knew that your teaching had made a difference with a student or their family?

  8. I teach high school juniors and seniors, so by the time they reach me, most have distinct opinions about subjects they “like and are good at” and subjects that they “dislike and stink at”. Based on those notions, many have a very clear idea of where they see their lives going. Though many of my students have gone on to careers in science and engineering, some of my most memorable students are those who were “science phobic” when I met them. For instance, in my second year of teaching, I began taking roll on day 1 in my Honors Chemistry class (comprised primarily of high school juniors). When I called out Trina’s name, she responded loudly, “I’m here, but no need to memorize my name. I hate science and I won’t be here long. I promised my mom I’d stay for 1 week, but them I’m dropping. No offense. Science is just too hard for me. I do English, not science.” I responded, smiling, “OK, then. But I hope you’ll at least give chemistry a fair chance for that week.” Trina not only ended up staying in my course, but she became one of my top students, wholly engaged and mesmerized by what she was learning. The work she completed was simply outstanding, clearly showing that she spent many hours beyond classroom time thinking about the material we were studying and making connections to the world around her and the concepts she had been taught in previous classes. When the time came for signing up for senior courses, Trina was first at my desk asking for my signature to enroll not only in my Honors Physics course, but also in an independent study to expand her chemistry knowledge even further. Trina went on to college as a journalism major, and she currently enjoys a position as managing editor of a newspaper. She continues to keep in touch with me, often reminding me that her whole world view was changed when my course helped her realize that finding answers to what seemed mysterious was enjoyable and that anything was achievable with hard work.


  9. Why aerospace education?

  10. Half the battle in educating teenagers is to capture their imagination and inspire their motivation. Aerospace topics do just that – they are relevant, “cutting edge”, and engaging topics. Additionally, most students believe that “rocket science” is completely beyond their ability to grasp; when they realize that what they are learning in physics class is directly related to the exact problems that NASA scientists struggle with as they plan their missions, and that they can understand, articulate, and begin to approach solving similar problems, they are thrilled and impressed at their own abilities. The expressions of students’ faces as they realize and appreciate their own learning is simply priceless!


  11. What is something that we would not know about you from reading the nomination package?

  12. I live in the most beautiful part of the nation – the rocky coast of Maine – with my husband of 21 years, Nate. I have two wonderful children: 23 year old Adrienne, who is currently a Peace Corp volunteer in Mozambique, and 19 year old Zach, who is in his sophomore year of college studying computer design and graphics. In my spare time (which, coincidentally, occurs almost exclusively in the months of June, July and August) I enjoy biking, kayaking, and woodworking. And I earnestly believe I have the absolute BEST job in the whole world!


  13. What is the best piece of advice you would give someone when working with students?

  14. Respect who they are, where they come from, and what they value. The students in our schools today are certainly different than they were when I was in school. However – that does not mean that their experiences, hobbies and priorities are any less valuable or noble than what existed 20 years ago. For instance - sure, kids spend an excessive amount of time on electronic devices, but instead of universally demonizing that preference, choose instead to embrace it to help students learn better, set higher goals, and make a difference . Also, remember to enjoy your students. Set high expectations for them, but laugh with them often.


 

Marquez-Joan-Labay   Joan Labay-Marquez
Curington Elementary School
Boerne, TX

 

  1. When did you decide that you wanted to become an educator?

  2. Over 14 years ago, I knew I wanted to become a teacher when I had the opportunity to homeschool my three sons during their preschool age. It changed my life and led me into a second and even more exciting and challenging career.


  3. What makes you excited about working with your students?

  4. Seeing them realize they have done meaningful work. I enjoy being a facilitator, being their cheerleader and sometimes, their counselor.


  5. What are the greatest challenges that you face as you inspire your students?

  6. Letting them know that its o.k. to make a mistake and giving them the courage to move on knowing that their mistakes do not define them.


  7. Can you tell us about a time when you knew that your teaching had made a difference with a student or their family?

  8. After Aviation camp, a third grade student came up to me and gave me the biggest hug and thanked me for having the camp. He told me that this was the most fun he had ever had at any camp and that he wanted to be a pilot when he grows up! He recently moved with his family to California, but before he left, he came to my classroom and gave me a big strong hug, thanking me and told me that he would never forget me. I’ll never forget him either!


  9. Why aerospace education?

  10. I want to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM so that we can begin to close the gap in the number of qualified individuals that are needed to fill positions in STEM related fields.


  11. What is something that we would not know about you from reading the nomination package?

  12. I am also an attorney. I enjoy listening to music, walking on the beach and spending time with my family. Someday I’d like to learn how to fly.


  13. What is the best piece of advice you would give someone when working with students?

  14. Know that you may be disappointed in what they do sometimes, but never be disappointed in them.



McCullough_Sean   Sean McCullough
Anderson Districts I & II Career & technology Center
Williamston, SC 

 

  1. When did you decide that you wanted to become an educator?

  2. I had always wanted to become a teacher; as a child playing “school” with my siblings I was always the teacher. In high school I was leaning towards becoming a history teacher but was talked out of it by friends and family. I began college as a mechanical engineering major but found that it was not a good fit for me. I learned about Technology Education and that I could teach STEM concepts at the secondary school level and decided this was for me. I changed my major and completed a degree in education and have been teaching ever since.


  3. What makes you excited about working with your students?

  4. I am fortunate enough to be a Project Lead the Way instructor. PLTW is an exciting and engaging engineering curriculum that engages students in problem and project based learning. Every day I propose new challenges to students and they continue to come up with unique ways of approaching and solving these challenges.


  5. What are the greatest challenges that you face as you inspire your students?

  6. The greatest challenge I face on a daily basis is my student’s inability to “transfer” their knowledge from the core classes (math, science, etc.) to solving practical and real-life type problems in my PLTW courses. They think of all their classes as separate things and compartmentalize their knowledge when they need to realize that their skills should transfer to and across all academic areas.


  7. Can you tell us about a time when you knew that your teaching had made a difference with a student or their family?

  8. I had a student come into my 9th grade Introduction to Engineering course several years ago that was by far the most challenging student I had ever tried to teach! He was disruptive, disrespectful, and lacked initiative in the classroom. I was surprised when he chose to continue in the program the next school year given his below average performance during the 9th grade. I asked him why he chose to come back and he said that he found engineering interesting and he was looking to join the robotics team. I immediately thought to myself that this is the last student in the world I want to spend any time with outside of school let alone travel to competitions with. He was good to his word and joined the robotics team during that school year. Once the robotics season started I saw an almost immediate change in him, both in and out of the classroom. His grades and motivation improved along with his behavior. He remained in the PLTW classes and robotics program for the remainder of his time in High School. Over those 3 years I was amazed at how he changed so much from that pesky 9th grader I had taught years before. He told me at the end of his senior year that had it not been for PLTW and robotics he probably would have done what many in his family had done before him and dropped out of high school. We had given him a reason to stay in school and he did. This student is now enrolled at a Technical College studying engineering technologies. I guess you just never know what students are capable of when they become interested and motivated about something.


  9. Why aerospace education?

  10. The PLTW Aerospace Education course is considered an elective course within the curriculum. When the program was implemented at my school there was no plan to include AE within the framework. I pushed for it from the start and 4 years after PLTW implementation we finally added the AE course. We now offer all PLTW elective classes and my AE course continues to have the highest enrollment; students have even been put on a waiting list for the course in past semesters. Personally I have always had a fascination with flight and space and teaching these concepts to students and getting them excited about it is a very rewarding teaching experience for me!


  11. What is something that we would not know about you from reading the nomination package?

  12. I spend a lot of time at school and working with students outside of regular classroom hours, especially with our robotics program--that should be evident from the nomination package. What you do not know about me are the hobbies I do in the little bit of time I have for myself. I am a huge gear-head, have been all my life, I enjoy restoring cars, riding my motorcycle, watersports, fishing, gardening, and just working around the house in general. My wife will tell you I don’t have much spare time for any of the above but I enjoy them when I can.


  13. What is the best piece of advice you would give someone when working with students?

  14. The best piece of advice I would give to someone working with students is to remember that there are more things we have no control over than things we do. Home and personal situations abound and sometimes the last thing on their mind is school and your classroom. Focus on the things you can control and make your classroom a predictable and stable place that is conducive to learning.


 

Swan-Deborah   Deborah Swan
Windsor Hills Math, Science and Aerospace Magnet
Los Angeles, CA   

 

  1. When did you decide that you wanted to become an educator?

  2. As a child, I had always wanted to become a teacher. However, I had an opportunity as a young adult to be trained as a Jr. Engineer working on the first Space Shuttle program in Downey. I grew up in Compton as an impoverished African-American student and felt my chances of going to college were slim. A group of African-American men from Rockwell International started a youth program in Compton, and using a bus, would come and pick up boys to join “Civil Air Patrol”. They got a chance to wear Air Force uniforms, learn to drill, and fly airplanes. Eventually they allowed girls in. I loved it. I became a Lieutenant and it became my second home.

    Years later, the same men hired me at Rockwell as an Engineer. It took me 20 years to get back on track to becoming a teacher. I had a highly successful career in Engineering. I was a Senior Quality Engineer for Mattel Toys, and worked for great companies like Ford Aerospace, Hughes Aircraft, Magnavox, and General Dynamics.

    When I finally started having children, I realized that I was no longer happy with the long and demanding hours. (I flew to Hong Kong to train managers at 8 months pregnant.) After I had my third child, I could not go back. I left the industry and went back to school working on my teaching credential.


  3. What makes you excited about working with your students?

  4. I have always been a stellar teacher. I get excited when I see passion light up in a child. When I am able to bring a novel idea or project to fruition. I love to see children’s potential being met and challenged. I light up when they have great questions, which cause me to grow and learn from them.


  5. What are the greatest challenges that you face as you inspire your students?

  6. The greatest challenge is to fit science curriculum into the day. The mandates and emphasis on passing district and state tests has a huge toll on this generation. I am constantly trying to do it all. Sometimes it takes me a week or two to get back on track with a science lesson due to those pressures. Science materials will sit on their desks until I can get us back to that learning. Also the lack of parental and school support is taxing.


  7. Can you tell us about a time when you knew that your teaching had made a difference with a student or their family?

  8. I have a student that is now becoming a teacher because of my unique way of teaching. She remembered everything I taught her especially the science modules. I have another student who is already teaching after graduating from Yale. She is one of my Facebook friends!


  9. Why aerospace education?

  10. I was an out of schoolroom teacher, a literacy coach, for 8 years. Due to the economy, I lost my position and was forced to go back to the classroom. I never thought I would be specifically focused on aerospace, I have always taught science strongly, but the school I am at now is a Math, Science, and Aerospace Magnet. I didn’t realize the strong connection until during the interview session; I was questioned about my math background due to the fact that I was focused on Literacy for 8 years. I laughed and shared what was not on my resume, that I had been an aerospace engineer for almost 20 years. I was hired on the spot. It has been a perfect match.


  11. What is the best piece of advice you would give someone when working with students?

  12. Something you may not know and always surprises people is that I am biracial. I am also a Buddhist of 34 years.


  13. What is the best piece of advice you would give someone when working with students?

  14. The advice I would give someone when working with students is to seek support from those around you. My husband helped me set up the Boeing Career day and has helped me tremendously at the school. I have the largest volunteer support in the entire school. Every Thursday I have up to 10 volunteers help me with team building and emotional development. I am always looking and asking others to support our children.


 

Weber-James   James Weber
Timberland High School
Wentzville, MO 

 

  1. When did you decide that you wanted to become an educator?

  2. I guess I always knew that I wanted to help others learn. I remember in Jr. High and High School helping my friends with homework and studying for tests. It was always fun to be able to help them learn and figure things out and see them succeed. I come from a family of educators. My father was in public education for 41 years and my mother put in over 20 years. They never really told me to be a teacher, it was their belief that I could find my own way. I went to college thinking that I wanted to be a doctor, but my advisor saw me helping other students and encouraged me to become one of his paid tutors. He really encouraged me to find my gift as a teacher and he help me to become the teacher that I am today. My parents also have given me great advice and encouragement in the field.


  3. What makes you excited about working with your students?

  4. I love seeing kids “get it!” It may be a simple concept or a difficult theory, but when the light bulb goes on is what excites me. Some students have grown up struggling and I enjoy helping them learn what they have always struggled with. Some students have grown up not struggling and I like to challenge them to find the limits of their intelligence and then push past those limits.


  5. What are the greatest challenges that you face as you inspire your students?

  6. One of the greatest challenges that we face as educators is letting our students struggle and, at times, even fail. As a teacher, I have to set different limits for each of my students. Some students come to class with better coping mechanisms and are better able to persevere when they struggle. I had a student tell me today that they had tried to do something 7 different times and that what I had asked them to do was just not possible (a common theme among high school students). I asked them what they did differently each of the 7 times and they said they had done the same thing over and over all 7 times. I asked them to think of a different way to try and then I left them to struggle. They weren’t very happy with me, but after a minute more of complaining, they tried another method and succeeded and learned much more than if I would have just told them how to do it.


  7. Can you tell us about a time when you knew that your teaching had made a difference with a student or their family?

  8. Last year, a student that I had taught for 3 consecutive years was preparing to graduate and go to college. His family fell on tough times and lost their house. I helped this young man change colleges and get into the local community college which he would be able to afford and I helped him get a scholarship at that community college. Then I helped him get a job at a local business so that he could work and start saving money to attend the university that he originally wanted to after he graduates with his associate’s degree. I hear from him on a regular basis about his adventures (and mis-adventures) and I keep on encouraging him to be the best. He is doing a great.


  9. Why aerospace education?

  10. Space and flight have always fascinated me. I am still in awe every time I see a plane take off or fly by and every time I fly. I know the physics behind the flight and I can do the calculations associated with solving flight problems, but flight itself is like magic to me. It is mysterious to think that planes that way so much can get up into the air and fly at the rate they do. I want to pass on the fascination to my students and encourage them to create their own magic in the future.


  11. What is the best piece of advice you would give someone when working with students?

  12. I have been happily married for 20 years and I have 2 wonderful children that I grow more proud of each day. I enjoy fishing and being outdoors whenever possible. I have had a lot of great learning experiences while fishing and I like to encourage my students to get out and enjoy the natural world. We have some great times talking in class about our different experiences in the great outdoors.


  13. What is the best piece of advice you would give someone when working with students?

  14. Be patient. It takes different amounts of time for different students to learn the same material. Be willing to help your students over and over and over again.