By CAROL LEE ANDERSON
NEW HAMPSHIRE – When school teacher Dan Caron instructs in the classroom during the current school year, a new honor will have been added to his already impressive resume. He was chosen as the 2013 Civil Air Patrol Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year.
Caron, a technology and engineering teacher at Bedford High School, is also a member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). Additionally, he serves as the director of WinnAero’s Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy at Laconia Municipal Airport located in Gilford, NH. WinnAero is a youth-based aviation organization that promotes science, technology, engineering and math through the use of aviation.
The CAP’s Teacher of the Year Award is a national-level award that recognizes a teacher member for outstanding accomplishments in aerospace education and for possessing the attributes expected from our country’s teachers.
Caron was nominated by Col. William Moran, who is the New Hampshire Wing Commander of the CAP. He commented on why he chose to nominate Caron for the award: “Dan is energetic and dedicated to youth development especially in aerospace. He’s trustworthy, well organized, and is a wealth of information. He constantly provides interactive processes for learning and knows how to teach and hold the students’ attention.”
Susan Mallet, CAP youth development program coordinator on the national level, described Caron as “the epitome of ‘teacher’ – passionately and professionally facilitating, partnering, and empowering youth for a future that will bring pride to themselves and benefit the nation.”
She explained why his nomination stood out above all the rest: “Dan works not only in his school but with youth during the summer. He has garnered the support of the community and has facilitated alliances with the aviation community to propel his programs ever onward – and he allows youth to be a part of the learning process – from design and creation to flying and experimentation themselves.”
Caron didn’t have a goal of becoming a teacher when he graduated from high school. A competitive swimmer, he was mainly concerned with finding a college that had a good swim team, and at the time, Keene State College in Keene, NH, had one of the best. He enrolled and soon after starting his freshman year, he began the search for a major that interested him. He became fascinated with technology and engineering when he saw his roommate returning with interesting projects he had constructed for his technology and shop classes. Soon afterward Caron decided to become a teacher and focused on the subjects that interested him: science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). He graduated with a degree in industrial education.
Since earning a degree, he has held various teaching positions in the East. While employed as a teacher at DuVal High School in Maryland, a project he was involved with gained national attention. Working with the school’s biology teacher, Caron and his students designed a science experiment that went into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in the fall of 1998. It was the same mission that carried astronaut John Glenn.
He and his students were faced with the challenge of building a habitat for an insect of their choice to be housed within a five cubic foot canister, which would then be added to the payload of the Discovery. The students did their research and chose to send cockroaches into space mainly because it was already proven that the not-so-popular insect can withstand a ride into weightlessness as well as the tremendous G-forces of a trip into space.
With the assistance of a technician from the school district’s science center, Caron and his numerous classes constructed the habitat over a number of years. In total, the experiment took almost nine years to prepare, and over 150 students and 100 adults participated in its creation. The group made history when some of the roaches arrived back on earth alive, a first for an experiment prepared by a civilian group.
Although a teacher in the Bedford school system, students in the Lakes Region of NH have also reaped the benefits of working with Caron. As director of the ACE Academy based at Laconia Airport, he brings his innovative teaching style to the classroom there.
He explained on how much he enjoys being involved with WinnAero and the programs they offer: “Having WinnAero located at Laconia Airport is fantastic. The kids get to fly with pilots at Skybright. The Civil Air Patrol, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the Laconia Airport Authority are all right there, and they are all a tremendous help. Diane Terrill, who is the airport manager, is always very willing to help us in any way. I can’t imagine trying to run an ACE Academy that is not located at an airport and one that doesn’t have so many helpful individuals who assist the program.”
Caron is no stranger to being honored with awards and designations. He has a long list of awards on his resume including numerous awards for teacher and program excellence, including being named the National Air Force Teacher of the Year in 2004. In his spare time, he became an author and curriculum specialist for EngineeringbyDesign through the STEM Center for Teaching and Learning.
The unpretentious school teacher says he is tremendously honored by being named as the CAP’s Teacher of the Year. His face lights up when he talks about being a teacher. “I love teaching. It’s never the same; there’s always something different I can work on,” he said.