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    Momentum Member Spotlight – September 2014

    AIAA Congratulates Christy L. Garvin

    By Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications

     

    ChristyLGavin With the start of the school year, the Member Spotlight swung around the nation looking to illuminate an AIAA Educator Associate member, falling on Christy L. Garvin of Powder Springs, Georgia, an elementary school science teacher with a knack for igniting a passion for aerospace in her students.

    Garvin teaches in the Cobb County system, working with the gifted education programs at Vaughan Elementary School and Dowell Elementary School, and teaching the fifth grade classes at Still and Clay Elementary schools. Garvin also teaches a kindergarten class at Clay. Garvin received an AIAA Educator Achievement Award in 2011 for her work with students.

    Garvin brings a lot of knowledge to the classroom. In addition to her years of teaching experience, she has also had several unique experiences that have contributed to her classroom instruction. Among those experiences are her time as part of the crew of the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island in Canada’s Baffin Bay in 2009 and serving as an instructor at NASA’s Spaceward Bound: Mojave Astrobiology Expedition in 2007; acting as Camp Director and an Instructor at The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Aeronautics Camp in 2006 and 2007; and as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s Teacher at Sea in 2005. She has also performed coral conservation research in Belize and worked on hydrography in Alaska.

    Garvin has received many honors during her career, among them are the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching; the 2009 Scott Crossfield/National Aviation Hall of Fame Education Award; the 2003 Georgia Science Teacher of the Year award; and the 2001 Christa McAuliffe Memorial Award.

    Garvin’s educational philosophy embraces the idea that “the world is a fascinating place full of curios and interesting things.” She feels that that her mission is to “facilitate my student’s growth into enthusiastic, lifelong learners who are capable of thinking creatively and solving problems.” She also believes that “science, technology, mathematics, and engineering are active processes constructed through first-hand experiences and extensions that require students to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate data.”

    When we began the actual interview, Garvin was asked what inspired her to get into education, were there specific people in her life that inspired her, and what her favorite childhood memory was about aerospace. Garvin replied, “There were several key factors that played a role in my decision to pursue a career in the field of education. First and foremost was the impact that several special teachers had upon my life. As a fourth grade student, I was privileged to be a member of Karen Thompson’s class. School had been, until that point, a place to socialize; I was largely uninterested, bored and doing as little as possible to produce the A’s and B’s that were required by my parents. However, a new world was opened to me during the year I spent under Mrs. Thompson’s watchful eye. She was an amazing lady and an outstanding educator. She spent that year caring about me, helping me dream, and then teaching me how to set goals to reach those ambitions. My best was the least she would accept. Mrs. Thompson believed in me, but more importantly, she helped me believe in myself. From that point on, my education became of utmost importance. With her help I had developed an intrinsic motivation and an internal locus of control. I came to realize my actions would determine my future, and that it was my responsibility to set goals and work toward them.”

    Garvin also explained that her brother helped influence her decision to be a teacher, relating: “Another element contributing to my choice of careers was the difficulty my brother, Tripp, experienced within the educational system. At a young age, he was diagnosed with ADD and learning disabilities. He struggled in school, but probably not as much as the teachers whose class rolls contained his name. Although loving, charismatic and gregarious, Tripp was a challenge to most of his classroom teachers. It was doubtful he would be successful in the academic arena. However, several very talented educators worked with him and helped him learn to read and write. He graduated from high school, completed several college courses, and currently works as a very successful wide area network engineer. The dedication and support of his teachers kept him from “falling through the cracks” and provided him with the opportunity to pursue a meaningful career.”

    Garvin also related that she has had a lifelong love of teaching, noting that her decision to teach was “inborn.” She went on to say, “Teaching is as natural to me as breathing. From the time I was four or five, I always “taught” others. I would have the other children in the neighborhood sit in a circle as I conducted school, and years later I spent long hours working with my brother as he struggled to master basic skills. While in high school, I would walk to the elementary school during my free period to help in the kindergarten classrooms, and then, during my college years I led review sessions for fellow students the night before tests. Many tried to dissuade me from my chosen career path, but my heart was set on working with children in a classroom setting. I love what I do, and I care deeply about developing all facets of the little ones with whom I work.”

    When asked about her favorite classroom memories revolving around aerospace, Garvin listed two: “The first was when I was in 5th grade. I remember that both of the 5th grade classes at my school crammed into one room and my teachers rolled in a TV and told us that we were about to see history in the making. It was April 12, 1981, and the first space shuttle, commanded by John Young and piloted by Robert Crippen, was about to launch. I remember being totally awed as I watched the space shuttle leave the ground, and even though other students were talking and using the time to play around, my eyes were just glued to the screen. I knew that men had walked on the moon, but I had been a baby when that happened, and this was the first spaceship I had ever seen launch. I already loved aviation and enjoyed going to the yearly airshow with my family, but seeing something launch into space made an indelible impression. A couple years later, when I was in 7th grade, my science teacher allowed us to build and launch Estes model rockets. I thought it was the greatest activity ever, and it is my other favorite memory related to aerospace education."

    Garvin’s favorite career memories, not surprisingly, stem from her students. “Some of my favorite memories fall in the ‘amazing category’ like watching two of my students wage the war of their lives against cancer, and win. Within the past few years one of my students was diagnosed with brain cancer and a second with osteosarcoma. Through surgeries, chemotherapy, rotationplasty, and months of going through the unimaginable, I watched my students smile, persevere, and survive. The lessons they taught me are a memory I will never forget. Then, I have some memories that fall in the ‘gratitude’ column. Days when I receive a letter, e-mail, or visit from a former student or their parents are some of my favorite memories. I love nothing more than hearing that I made an impact on a student and that someone’s life might have been changed by the time we spent together. Those communications are so uplifting and encouraging and they remind me why I went into education in the first place. And finally, there are some amazing memories that fall into the fun/exploration category. … I have memories of attending Space Camp with my students, hearing their excited chatter after taking them for their first airplane ride with the Young Eagles program, traveling with them to Kennedy Space Center and The Challenger Center, listening to their squeals of anticipation as we rode the helo-dunker and centrifuge at Aviation Challenge."

    When asked what advice she would give to students in grades K–12 who may be thinking about an aerospace career, Garvin imparted this, “The first thing I would tell K–12 students thinking about pursuing a career in aerospace is they are considering an amazing and exciting field that provides countless and exciting opportunities to explore, learn, and contribute. I would encourage students to take as many STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) classes as possible and, in the words of Winston Churchill, to ‘NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up!’ Oftentimes, advanced STEM classes can be very rigorous and difficult, but participation in those classes helps develop the technical skills, perseverance, and work ethic necessary to be successful in an aerospace career. In addition, I would advise students to begin to look for aerospace opportunities they can take advantage of right now. Both the Civil Air Patrol and Naval Sea Cadet Corps have outstanding aviation programs for youth, and NASA offers many competitions for elementary through high school-aged students. Technical universities such as Georgia Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Carnegie Mellon offer summer programs for students and many individuals with aerospace careers are willing to work with or mentor students. By learning more about various aerospace opportunities at a young age, students are better equipped to decide what area interests them. Furthermore, participating in aerospace activities can open up additional opportunities for internships and more hands-on experience. Above all I would tell students to dream big, work hard, and pursue every opportunity to grow, learn and explore aerospace topics.”

    For her fellow teachers, striving to help kids improve their STEM skills, Garvin had this advice: “Never ever underestimate what students are capable of achieving and learning. Set the bar high, believe in your students, and work very hard to help them believe in themselves. Individuals cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with how they view themselves. So, nothing is more important than helping students see their true potential and equipping them with the skills and attitudes necessary to reach their goals and dreams. Students learn in so many different ways, so recognizing and accommodating differences; making learning fun, engaging, and true to life; and setting up inquiry-based learning are all things I try to do to help students achieve their maximum potential.”

    Garvin went on to note that the aerospace community is large, and needs all manner of individual skill sets to help it fulfill its mission: “As far as helping students realize that there is a place for them in the aerospace industry regardless of their math and science abilities, I think the key is introducing students to different careers within the industry. There are literally hundreds of careers students can pursue that don’t require a great deal of advanced math and science—aerial photographer, flight attendant, airplane mechanic, pilot, airport manager, avionics technician, ground crew, and the list goes on and on. No matter what a student is interested in doing, there is more than likely a place for that student in the aerospace industry. Not everyone has to be a rocket scientist or aerospace engineer, although those are pretty awesome careers as well.”

    As for the value of AIAA to educators, Garvin enthusiastically replied, “AIAA is of tremendous value to educators and it is an organization that is extremely committed to education and the future generations of aerospace professionals. Speaking personally, AIAA has provided me with many resources as I attempt to motivate students to excel in STEM fields. I attended the 2005 AIAA Space Exploration Conference and learned a great deal about space travel and exploration; the sessions and speakers were excellent and added greatly to the knowledge base I share with students. In the past, I’ve received AIAA classroom grants to help fund Estes model rocket activities and building hovercrafts with my students. I’ve also used the “Ask an Engineer” link on the website to gain more technical knowledge about various aircraft, and have found the engineers to be very helpful explaining technical concepts in a way I was able to understand. When I teach a flight unit or run the flying club, I use the Kids Place page to introduce students to the parts of an airplane, pitch, roll, and yaw, and some beginning aeronautics. Students love the1903 Wright Flyer simulation and particularly enjoy the challenge of a real-time gusty day. I’ve used much of the curriculum that is posted on the AIAA curriculum site including the Alka rockets, Aeronautics Educator Guide, Egg Drop activity, and the Rockets Educator Guide. In addition, the AIAA website now offers an Educator Academy with six-week curriculum modules on various topics and an “Ask Polaris” site to help guide high school students interested in aerospace careers. Due to the myriad of resources AIAA provides educators, I greatly value my membership and actively encourage other educators to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.”

    We concluded the interview discussing what she has in store for her students during the current school year, and it sounds like some neat things are going to happen: “This year my classroom has been transformed into ‘Garvin’s Space and Robotics Academy.’ My young cadets will start the year learning about aviation, flying flight simulators, and going to a military aviation camp where they will experience land and water survival, F-16 integrated flight simulators, and a centrifuge. They will then explore rocketry and the space race and learn to calculate the height, average and instantaneous velocity, and range of the Estes model rockets they will build and launch. A study of rocketry wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Space and Rocket Center, so we will travel to Alabama to see firsthand the Saturn V and trace the space race through the museum exhibits. After our rocketry study, students will complete a simulated ISS mission and explore both the space shuttle and rockets of the future. We will look at the feasibility of a mission to Mars and learn more about the red planet. Following this unit of study, we will travel to the Challenger Center in Tennessee where students will participate in a ‘Mission to Mars.’ Finally, the last unit of study will consist of students constructing Lego NXT robots, learning to program their robots, and engaging in a Mars rescue mission using the programmed robots. We have quite a year in store!”

    AIAA congratulates Christy Garvin on her selection as the AIAA Member Spotlight for September 2015, and thanks her for her passionate commitment to unlocking the fun in STEM education for our nation’s young people—that education and our members’ commitment to it truly shapes the future of aerospace.