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    CAP honors top Aerospace Connection in Education achievers

    July 1, 2010


    Megan Tucker, ACE Coordinator of the Year, and some of her Kenwood Elementary students strike an aviation-appropriate pose.

    Abby Burditt, one of two ACE Students of the Year.

    D.J. Hadden, the second ACE Student of the Year, with his teacher at Vidalia Heritage Academy, Christy Scoggins, and Jeff McCormick, the school's headmaster.

    Carla Chin, ACE Teacher of the Year.

    Megan Tucker, ACE Coordinator of the Year, and her Kenwood Elementary School principal, Alan Lambert.

    Participating students and teachers at the ACE School of the Year, Kenwood Elementary in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

    NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS – The 2009-2010 academic year proved to be a soaring success for Civil Air Patrol’s Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) Program for grades K-6, which marked a full year of formal program implementation beyond the two-year prototype phase.

    Taking year0end stock of the program also includes awarding accolades to high-performing educators and schools.

    “It’s been a tremendous blessing to watch some of the kids who might not excel in some things really come alive when aircraft, space, flight and astronauts have been introduced to them. It’s just been great to watch their response to ACE,” said Jeff McCormick, headmaster of Vidalia Heritage Academy in Vidalia, Ga., and the summer 2010 CAP AEM Spotlight Educator.

    The K-8 administrator facilitated the ACE Program at his school while his elementary students and teachers “took flight” throughout the year.  In honor of his visionary school leadership, McCormick was selected to fly with the Navy’s Blue Angels demonstration team. 

    He credits his school’s participation in the program as a significant factor in his selection as a “key influence rider” with the Blue Angels. His entire school was at the airfield watching his flight in amazement, and there’s no doubt all of his students and teachers were soaring with him in spirit and inspiration. 

    While the ACE Program is designed for grades K-6, the Vidalia Heritage Academy’s seventh- and eighth-graders helped conduct the program for the younger students. 

    Some of those older students may soon be able to experience their own orientation flights aboard CAP Cessnas if McCormick’s quest to create a CAP middle school cadet program at Vidalia Heritage becomes a reality. 

    It’s evident that the entire school is excited about aerospace.  In fact, one student was so excited and excelled so markedly in the program, he was selected as one of CAP’s National ACE Students of the Year.

    National ACE Students of the Year

    In order to be named 2009-2010 CAP National ACE Student of the Year, a nominee must exhibit dedication to academics, excellence in character, a healthy and drug-free lifestyle and, of course, a keen interest in aerospace.

    While it’s hoped that most of the more than 6,000 students participating in the program display those traits, two special students were selected for the prestigious award.

    • DJ Hadden, a fifth-grader at Vidalia Heritage Academy.
    • Abby Burditt, a sixth-grader at San Jose Catholic School in Jacksonville, Fla.

    In nominating DJ, his fifth-grade teacher, Christy Scoggins, wrote that every staff member at the school agreed that he was “an exemplary candidate for this award.”  DJ shows a huge love for his country and its military, she said, and he has accumulated wealth of knowledge about the military, World War II and aircraft. 

    “In the fifth grade, we studied the forces of flight and concepts behind many different aircraft,” Scoggins wrote. “Without fail, I would receive questions about specific airplane models and the details concerning each.

    “DJ could always be counted on to provide the information.”  

    DJ had a wonderful year participating in the program.  He told McCormick, the headmaster, as the school’s ACE program kicked off, “This is what I’ve been looking for my whole life!”

    At San Jose Catholic, Abby’s favorite subjects are math, science and physical education.  Her sixth-grade teacher, Carla Chin, wrote in nominating her, “I think Abby is a true reflection of the ACE Program.  She exceeds the goals set for the ACE Program and demonstrates that strong character and leadership skills, combined with physical fitness and aerospace education knowledge, produce great citizens.” 

    Abby’s grandmother expressed sincere awe at the child’s aerospace interest, Chin said. “Abby has had an interest in marine biology since she was a little girl.  The ACE Program has been positive for her, and she now desires to look beyond the ocean and into space! 

    “Abby received a telescope this past Christmas, and she now has the opportunity to view the moon and constellations.  She is a well-organized child who is planning to attend college and major in a science-related field.”  

    ACE Teacher of the Year

    Chin herself continues to shine as an aerospace educator.  She has been an outstanding teacher in the ACE Program since it began in 2007-2008, and she was named 2008-2009 ACE Coordinator of the Year.

    She now follows up that honor by being named 2009-2010 National CAP ACE Teacher of the Year. 

    Carla has gone above and beyond to ensure her students received all 21 ACE lessons for her grade level.  She took her sixth-graders on a field trip to Kennedy Space Center this year to further enrich their aerospace educational experiences. 

    In her “spare” time, Chin put together her own aerospace literature unit using Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon and is developing an aerospace literature unit to go with former NASA engineer Homer Hickam’s best-selling autobiographical novel, Rocket Boys: A Memoir, basis for the popular movie October Sky.

    Chin teaches sixth and seventh grades, and when her sixth-grade ACE students from the previous year advanced to seventh grade, they expected her to continue incorporating aerospace into their lessons.

     “Carla is definitely a leader, and her energy and commitment to education is contagious and inspiring,” Assistant Principal Jennifer Frank said.

    Chin invites volunteers to present ACE lessons to add variety and much-needed role models for her students. Volunteer instructors have included school faculty members, parents, Air Force Association members, CAP members, and even a local meteorologist, who spoke to the entire student body at the school’s annual “ACE Liftoff Celebration.”

    Not only was the school’s aerospace program touted on the TV weather broadcast, it’s promoted regularly throughout the community and with other educators through Chin’s never-ending energy and enthusiasm  for exciting everyone about the wonders of aerospace for today and the future.  

    Chin also works with aerospace organizations and attends workshops to further her personal knowledge and expertise and broaden her classroom instruction. 

    Frank Kozdras, past president of Air Force Association Falcon Chapter No. 399, described her as “a highly skilled teacher, a superb leader and a creative educator unafraid of new programs that promote science, technology, engineering and math in our schools.” 

    Brig. Gen. Joseph Blaskus, assistant adjutant general for air and Florida Air National Guard commander, cited Chin’s involvement not only with the ACE Program but also with the NASA interactive educational program, STARBASE Academy and the AFA’s Visions of Exploration.  “She demonstrates a level of excitement in the classroom that inspires her students to have fun while learning and has infected other teachers in her school to follow her lead,” Blaskus wrote in his nomination letter.

    ACE Coordinator of the Year

    Florida is also home to the ACE Coordinator of the Year – Megan Tucker, a fourth-grade teacher at Kenwood Elementary School in Fort Walton Beach.

    Tucker has been a CAP aerospace education member for about four years, but this was her first year participating in the ACE Program.

    After learning about the program on the CAP website and getting even more details during a 2009 summer CAP-sponsored aerospace workshop, she immediately discussed the idea of Kenwood becoming an ACE school with her principal, Alan Lambert. He eagerly supported the idea, and Tucker took on the role of ACE coordinator for Kenwood Elementary.

    To set a positive tone and encourage confidence, she arranged for a schoolwide aerospace workshop to help educate and motivate the faculty about the ACE Program.  Throughout the year, she maintained and organized detailed records of the teachers’ ACE participation. 

    Aerospace can be an intimidating subject, but Tucker’s enthusiasm, confidence, knowledge and planning helped make the ACE Program very rewarding for her school. 

     “Tucker’s resourcefulness, tactfulness and flexibility in dealing with teachers, administrators and parents, in addition to her natural proclivity for teaching, has made her an invaluable asset to the school district in general and my school in particular,” Lambert wrote.

    Ricardo Soria, an assistant high school principal with numerous aerospace affiliations and awards, called her “an incredibly innovative and enthusiastic teacher.  She continues to be the driving force behind the Kenwood Elementary School STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and aviation efforts.  She is a self-motivated dynamo.” 

    Okaloosa County’s superintendent of schools, Alexis Tibbetts, wrote, “The accomplishments of Megan Tucker are far too vast to list here.  She has truly had a profound impact on the students in her class and across our district.” 

    No newcomer to the field, Tucker wrote that “aerospace is a normal part of my everyday teaching.  I have been integrating aviation into my classroom for the past four years, building the program from my one fourth-grade class, to teaching four fourth-grade aerospace classes, to including the entire school! 

    “My ongoing goal has been to make Kenwood Elementary students truly experience an ‘Aviation Fascination!’ ”
    ACE School of the Year

    Appropriately enough, then, Kenwood Elementary is the 2009-2010 CAP National ACE School of the Year. 

    Throughout its first year to participate, the school soared above and beyond expectations in executing the program. About 67 percent of the classroom teachers exceeded the 12-lesson minimum requirement, and everyone at the school wore their bright yellow ACE T-shirts the first Thursday of every month – the designated CAP ACE day. 

    With almost 30 classroom teachers, the principal, additional faculty members and slightly more than 550 students participating, Kenwood Elementary certainly took the program and its participants to new heights.

    From school “liftoffs” to “landings,” the school climbed above the clouds.

    As a special guest speaker, Kenwood’s ACE Liftoff Celebration featured Ken Blackburn, aerospace engineer and Guinness World Record holder for the longest time aloft for a paper airplane. In addition, a GULFlight medical helicopter landed at the school in front of an enthusiastic student body. 

    In another aerospace event near the end of the school year, four members of the Army Special Operations parachute team jumped out of a plane and onto a field behind the school.  After the group landed, fourth-grader Cole Browning exclaimed, “That was one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had!”

    Parents and other local residents were invited to attend the aerospace events, and the local newspaper covered the stories, which were posted on the school district’s website, as well as the CAP Aerospace Education website

    Kenwood’s enthusiasm for aerospace and participation in the ACE Program was further promoted by Tucker, Lambert and a fifth-grade student on a local cable television show. 

    In addition, the aerospace theme was interwoven throughout the school, from each classroom to the physical fitness field and the school’s yearbook. 

    The immersion in aerospace education led to some discoveries for participants.  A first-grade teacher reported that she was aware that her class enjoyed studying aviation, but she hadn’t realize the just how interested the children were until a series of events led to their helping develop a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting today’s planes with that of the Wright brothers.

     “What an exciting learning experience!” she said.

    The ACE Program continues to make strides as a unique program for both CAP and youth organizations across America, meeting the societal and educational challenges to provide rigorous academic relevance, improve character development and increase physical fitness for young people. The program’s availability at no cost to schools that wish to fully implement the program is a treasured benefit for financially strapped educational institutions. 

    By the conclusion of the first formal year beyond the two-year prototype phase for the  program, about 250 teachers and some 6,200 students at 63 educational sites in 23 states had reaped the benefits of the program during academic year 2009-2010. Additional academic lessons for each grade-level curriculum guide, as well as a new online registration and completion process, enhanced the program’s effectiveness. 

    On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best possible score, program assessment data continues to be high, with an average score of 4.3.  Positive results from schools with strong administrative support for an entire school’s ACE participation are particularly relevant in predicting continuity and success for future years.
    More ACE Program information, including sample lesson plans, is available online. Those interested in becoming an ACE classroom or ACE school can send an inquiry to

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