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Teacher Flies High Learning and Teaching Aviation

By Helen Woods, for Light Plane World

Teacher Rob Rice
Rob Rice

Rob Rice never dreamed that he'd be learning to fly a light-sport airplane as part of his first teaching job when he was earning his master's degree in integrative science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education at Virginia Tech. Most sunny afternoons, however, Rob can be found at the Bay Bridge Airport in Maryland doing exactly that. He was hired to teach an aeronautics ground school; the high school sent him to be trained as a sport pilot so he could better teach his class.

Rob landed his dream job teaching in the STEM program at South River High School in Edgewater, Maryland, in 2010. The STEM program is designed to engage students in an exciting project-based, technology-rich learning environment. It is an educational choice for academically able and motivated students interested in rigorous and relevant studies in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. The South River program offers students an opportunity to focus these studies in aviation-related fields such as aerospace engineering.

As part of this program, Rob teaches aeronautics in basically a pilot ground school; however, when Rob was hired he was neither a pilot nor FAA ground instructor. Fortunately, Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) offers teachers opportunities for "professional development." AACPS contracted with local flight school Chesapeake Sport Pilot to train Rob to become both a pilot and FAA ground instructor so he could better teach his classes.

"The material that I present in class is in a book," explains Rob, "but the material must be related to what happens prior to flight, in flight, and after flying. I could read the textbook and teach from that, but relating the classroom lessons to what I learn while flying a plane make my lessons much more relevant and exciting. There is passion for flying in my teaching where there used to be only repetition from the text." Everything together - the bookwork, the flight simulator software, and especially his flying experienceóreally brings the love of flying into Rob's classroom for his students.

While Rob's pilot training brings relevance and excitement to his classroom teaching, his FAA instructor training brings immediate tangible benefits to his students. Upon completion of his instructor training, Rob will be authorized to endorse all of his students for the FAA knowledge tests for sport and private pilot at the end of their class. The mission of STEM at South River High School is to encourage each student to be academically excellent in a project-based challenging learning environment that combines innovative and effective teaching strategies with a curriculum focused on making connections between math, science, technology, the humanities, and the arts. Instruction is strong on research skills, self-directed, and hands-on in an environment where student collaboration and success are expected. Global vision, 21st century high-tech skills, collaborative problem solving, research and internship opportunities, project-based learning, self-direction, and social responsibility are the driving forces behind the STEM program. Through active involvement and strong school-family-community partnerships, students acquire the knowledge base, skills, and core values that will maximize their potential for success in an increasingly diverse and ever-changing global society.

Located at the Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville, Maryland, Chesapeake Sport Pilot is the largest light-sport flight center in the country. Its mission is to allow more people to enjoy the benefits of aviation by making flying accessible, affordable, and fun. Chesapeake Sport Pilot has eight modern aircraft, 16 highly experienced instructors, and about 60 students actively enrolled in instruction at any given time. Chesapeake Sport Pilot offers sport pilot, private pilot, and several instructor ratings. They sponsor numerous youth activities and offer certain student discounts. Follow Rob's flight lessons at his online blog: TrimForLevelFlight.blogspot.com. For more information, please call 410-604-1717, e-mail helen@chesapeakesportpilot.com, or visit www.ChesapeakeSportPilot.com.

Helen Woods is a NAFI-rated master flight instructor and chief flight instructor at Chesapeake Sport Pilot.

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