Educators from across the globe are set to participate in the fifth annual Teachers’ Day at AirVenture 2014.
The event, set for July 29, is designed to help educators learn about how to use the topics of aerospace and aviation to enhance their teaching and give hands-on experiences to their students, said Debbie Phillips, executive director of Build A Plane, a nonprofit organization that gives students the chance to build airplanes as part of their school’s curriculum.
“It’s hands-on experience that really engages kids and especially kids that may not be in the traditional realm of college academics (where) maybe that’s not their forte,” Phillips said. “This is a way to really engage them and get them excited about something and it’s a real-life experience where they can see the product or project.”
Among this year’s presenters will be three-time national aerobatic champion and International Aerospace Hall of Fame inductee Patty Wagstaff, who has been an instructor for three decades. She said while pilots often get the fame and the credit, those who work behind the scenes also contribute greatly to the safety and mechanics of the aircraft.
“Somebody has to build them, and somebody has to design them,” Wagstaff said. “Aviation is about teamwork. It takes a lot of people to make an airplane fly. … Whether you’re a controller, pilot, engineer or designer, there’s a competition out there for the best minds. We need to attract those people and let them know what opportunities there are.”
Wagstaff is no stranger to EAA AirVenture, performing at the air show and appearing at the annual event several times throughout the years. She said the welcoming, positive atmosphere of the event — and the Oshkosh area as a whole — makes AirVenture one of her favorite events.
“It’s the highlight of our year every year,” Wagstaff said. “It’s right in the middle of the season. … Just seeing how inspiring people get in aviation is the favorite part for me.”
With an increasing number of employers saying they want workers who have background and training in science, technology, engineering and math fields, along with the abilities to solve problems and think critically, Phillips said aviation is one way to meet those criteria.
“I don’t think we realize how much general aviation is a part of our everyday lives,” Phillips said. “I think it’s really important for kids to look at viable options for careers. Teachers’ Day is a really good place for teachers to network with each other … and also find out from aviation industries what kinds of help is available.”