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Aerospace Workshop graduate receives 2018 National Aerospace / STEM Teacher of the Year award

Sherilyn Dawson has received the 2018 National Air Force Association (AFA) Teacher of the Year 3rd place award. Ms. Dawson, who is a K-5 Computer and STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts & Math) Teacher at Concord Christian School in Knoxville, is a graduate of the 2017 Aviation Outreach and Education: Basic Aerospace Workshop for Teachers. This workshop, co-sponsored by the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences’ Theory and Practice in Teacher Education department and the Tennessee Wing Civil Air Patrol, is held annually at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Campus. The workshop is funded by a generous grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Office of Aeronautics.

Ms. Dawson, who graduated from UT in 1993 with a M.S. in Curriculum & Instruction, holds numerous awards and honors, including the 2018 Air Force Association Tennessee State Teacher of the Year, the 2018 Air Force Association General Bruce K. Holloway Chapter Teacher of the Year, and the 2017 Tennessee Wing Civil Air Patrol Aerospace Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Dawson has been featured in numerous news media outlets, including the Farragut Press and Channel 6 News. Ms. Dawson’s innovative approach to STREAM teaching in the elementary classroom includes (quite famously) a Payload Party where she and her students launched a stuffed lion attached to a ‘payload’ of Styrofoam boxes fitted with a variety of technological gadgets, phones and cameras into the Earth’s atmosphere as part of a NASA-funded eclipse ballooning program in partnership with Pellissippi State Community College.

Other creative approaches that Ms. Dawson has used in her classroom include having students create a prosthetic hand using a 3D printer to assist a student with use of the student’s fingers, learning computer programming using a robotic cat and the game of cornhole, programming a robot to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a student’s grandmother,  organizing a Fishing Club for students to learn more about the application of science and technology in fishing and recreation, and most importantly, teaching students CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED’s) as part of her classroom Valentine’s Day celebration.

Of the Aerospace workshop, Ms. Dawson says, “Participating in the workshop really changed how I teach.  While I still teach the core concepts, I just put an aerospace spin on things. I am thankful to UTK for investing in teachers after graduation. By having workshops free of charge for teachers, it allows us to keep things fresh and relevant to current events and have hands on experiences documented by pictures and first-hand knowledge of the Aerospace / Transportation Industry.  Our excitement is brought back to the classroom and the textbooks have new life for our students because of these experiences. The Civil Air Patrol resources through the ACE program and STEM kits keep my students eager to learn.  The CAP resources have prepared lesson plans aligned to state standards. These are valuable and have reduced the out of school research and prep-time.”

Lt. Col. David L. Garner said  “Sherilyn Dawson is putting the aerospace education information and resources to work in her classroom and school that she learned in the 2017 University of Tennessee Aerospace Education/STEM Teacher Workshop.”  The Civil Air Patrol and the Air Force Association look for outstanding teachers such as Sherilyn Dawson to honor for innovative educational work.”

Col. Paula Penson said “It is so exciting to have our Air Force Association Chapter Teacher of the Year win at the national level! This is the first time Tennessee has won a national placement. It does not surprise me that Sherilyn won. Her dedication to expanding the horizons of her students’ worlds comes from a sincere wish for students to love science the way she does.”

The Basic Aerospace Workshop has been offered at UTK for the past 24 years and is consistently voted UT’s most popular continuing education opportunity. Full tuition is provided for graduate credit and Tennessee Teacher recertification needs.

Included in the workshop is the opportunity to learn from speakers across a range of aerospace backgrounds, visits to the NASA Teacher Resource Center and US Space and Rocket Museum in Huntsville, AL, and the Tennessee Aviation Museum in Sevierville, TN, a behind the scenes tour of McGhee Tyson Airport and Downtown Island Airport,an egg drop competition to learn how NASA scientists must determine how best to land a craft on Mars, a model airplane flight launch / competition, a model rocket launch on the grounds of Ayres Hall, flight instruction and flight in small aircraft around the local area of your choice, and a refueling mission flight with the 134th Tennessee Air National Guard

For more information on the workshop and to register for the 2019 Basic Aerospace Workshop, please visit :


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