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Classroom teachers primed to fly

Raymond Gonzalez, a high school teacher from the Bronx, New York, knew immediately which airplane on the AOPA ramp he wanted to fly.

  • High school teacher Minervo Ramirez of Porterville, California, joined “AOPA Pilot” Editor at Large Dave Hirschman for an aerobatic flight in an Extra 300 during curriculum training for educators near Frederick, Maryland. Photo by David Tulis.
  • High school teacher Minervo Ramirez of Porterville, California, joins “AOPA Pilot” Editor at Large Dave Hirschman for an inverted flight in an Extra 300.. Photo by David Tulis.
  • High school educators participate in a hands-on workshop to learn about airspace. Photo by Rebecca Boone.
  • Educator Thomas Verga of Staunton, Virginia, learns about aviation from AOPA Director of Flight Operations Luz Beattie. Photo by Rebecca Boone.
  • CFI and educator Jaehyun Kim of Grand Island, Nebraska, helps build a model of an airport during a hands-on workshop for the AOPA High School curriculum in Frederick, Maryland, June 15, 2022. Photo by Rebecca Boone.
  • Teachers fly gliders that they helped build. Photo by Rebecca Boone.
  • Teachers learn about payload by adding paper clips to balloons. Photo by Rebecca Boone.
  • AOPA Director of Flight Operations Luz Beattie coaches a flight simulation session. Photo by Stephen Schroeder.
  • High school educator Jaehyun Kim checks out a Robinson R22 helicopter during a hands-on exercise to bolster understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math skills related to aviation in Frederick, Maryland, June 14, 2022. Photo by David Tulis.
  • High school educator Richard Roughton of New York learns about airfoil design from AOPA Senior Director of Flight Training Education Chris Moser during a hands-on exercise. Photo by David Tulis.
  • High school educators participate in a hands-on workshop at AOPA headquarters June 14. Photo by David Tulis.
  • U.S. Air Force recruiter and guest speaker Maj. Matthew Weave Roland greets with Porterville Military Academy educator Fred Dohnke during hands-on exercises designed to help teach science, technology, engineering, and math skills as they relate to aviation in Frederick, Maryland, June 14, 2022. Photo by David Tulis.
  • U.S. Air Force recruiter and guest speaker Maj. Matthew Weave Roland chats with a high school teacher. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A silhouette of a jet fighter is illuminated on U.S. Air Force recruiter and guest speaker Maj. Matthew Weave Roland during presentation to high school teachers in Frederick, Maryland, June 14. Photo by David Tulis.

“I want to go in that one,” he said, pointing to a Cessna 182. “I want to ride in something with power.”

Gonzalez and 18 other teachers were immersed in general aviation during a three-day workshop designed to prime classroom teachers who will use the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum this fall. Teachers from Arkansas, California, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia participated in presentations and hands-on activities designed to get them familiar with the program and how to teach it effectively. The curriculum is available for ninth through twelfth grades with career pathways for either pilot or unmanned aircraft system operator.

The teachers learned how to bring aerodynamic concepts to life by building paper airplanes, wind tunnels, airfoils, and 3D foam models of Class B and Class C airspace. They’ll take these ideas back to their classrooms as part of the curriculum’s engaging content that has proven highly popular among the schools that teach it. Three hundred twenty-two schools in 44 states now use the curriculum, with more signing on each year—and every school that has enrolled in the program has renewed for successive years.

As some teachers got an introduction to aviation weather theory and medical qualifications, others trooped out to the AOPA ramp to get a look at a GA airplane (and a six-pack). Gonzalez, a presolo student pilot, said he felt like “a kid at Disneyland” looking at the airplanes on the ramp at Frederick Municipal Airport and on AOPA’s ramp. Gonzalez is an avid flight simmer and he knew the makes, if not always the models, of most of the airplanes he saw.

Others, like Richard Roughton of Elysburg, Pennsylvania, are brand-new to GA. Roughton climbed into the left seat of AOPA’s 182 and studied the instruments in the panel as Erik Yates, director of curriculum development for the AOPA Foundation, gave him the laymen’s tour.

Jonas De Leon of New York City has been a pilot since 1992, and he flew his Mooney to Frederick to participate in the workshop.

Rides in GA aircraft are a highlight of teacher workshops, and this week’s group watched the weather—which was early-summer overcast with threats of rain on the first day—before taking flight on June 15 in AOPA aircraft. AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman even took two daring teachers aloft in an Extra 300L for some unusual attitudes.

Teachers don’t need to be pilots to teach the high school STEM curriculum, but some educators have fallen in love with GA after getting involved in the program. And if they do, the AOPA Foundation awards up to 20 teacher scholarships through its annual scholarship program.

The You Can Fly program and the Air Safety Institute are funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit www.aopafoundation.org/donate.

High school educators let loose some pent-up energy after participating in hands-on exercises on the AOPA campus to bolster their understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math skills as they relate to aviation in Frederick, Maryland, June 14, 2022. Photo by David Tulis.

High school teacher Raymond Gonzalez of the Bronx, New York, learns about avionics and flight controls of a Cessna 182 Skylane from AOPA Director of Curriculum Development Erik Yates. Photo by David Tulis. High school educators Raymond Gonzalez, left, of the Bronx, New York, and Bryce Smith of Port Orange, Florida, explore a six-cylinder aircraft engine during hands-on exercises to bolster their understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math skills as they relate to aviation in Frederick, Maryland, June 14. Photo by David Tulis. High school educators Ed Sponenburg and Jaehyun Kim participate in an interactive hands-on workshop with AOPA Senior Director of Flight Training Education Chris Moser in Frederick, Maryland, June 14, 2022. Photo by David Tulis. High school educators Richard Roughton, left, and Raymond Gonzalez, both from New York, fly paper airplanes during an interactive exercise. Photo by David Tulis. High school teacher Jennifer Angerami of Saddlebrook, New Jersey, helps preflight a Van's Aircraft RV–12 with AOPA Flying Clubs Director Steve Bateman. Photo by David Tulis. High school teacher Jennifer Angerami of Saddlebrook, New Jersey, taxis in a Van's Aircraft RV–12 with AOPA Flying Clubs Director Steve Bateman. Photo by David Tulis.
Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.
Topics: You Can Fly, Aviation Education Programs

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