Educator's dedication stems from love of flying
Virginia Knudsen fell in love with aviation at an early age, when her father took her to LaGuardia Airport to watch the planes take off. While growing up, her passion for flight never waned and she was eventually able to combine that love with her enthusiasm for teaching.
For the past 12 years, Knudsen has been working as a science teacher at a variety of South Florida schools while also serving as the squadron commander for the Civil Air Patrol, an after-school program that teaches students leadership skills and aerospace topics. Knudsen has been the squadron commander for the Civil Air Patrol for the past two years at Crystal Lakes Middle in Pompano Beach and also introduced the program at her current school, Parkway Middle in Lauderhill.
“There’s just something about being in the air, and I try to pass that love to my students,” Knudsen said.
For her dedication to her students and the Civil Air Patrol, Knudsen was recently named the Air Force Association’s Florida Teacher of the Year. The award also honors her achievements teaching students a variety of math, science and aerospace subjects.
“It’s not just teaching them information about science, it’s also teaching them life skills,” she said.
Knudsen is part of Parkway Middle School’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program, which utilizes a project-based curriculum to engage the students with hands-on activities that are research-driven.
During the school year, Knudsen’s students learn about the intricacies of flight by using a flight simulator in the classroom. With a focus on meteorology, the students also created a weather station, model satellites, weather dioramas and other 3D components.
“We have to engage them through hands-on projects so they can start to get those developmental skills,” she said. “Education has to be hands-on. There’s something about the cognitive condition and engaging the sensory base. Sometimes there are some students who don’t understand the concepts until they’ve actually experienced it with their hands.”
Along with gaining valuable leadership skills and a better knowledge of aerospace and space engineering, students involved with the Civil Air Patrol have had the opportunity to fly. After training in the flight simulator, the students test their skills in a Cessna 172 plane with a training pilot.