Maj. Brian Johnston, Georgia Wing External DAE, also is a teacher and brings CAP's AE lessons to his school
Posted on 07/15/2021 at 12:03 PM by Virginia Smith
Maj. Brian Johnston, the 2018 National AE Teacher of the Year, helps a visitor at the 2018 National Conference AE Open House.
July 15, 2021
Meet Maj. Brian Johnston. He is a Squadron Commander (Barrow-Jackson Composite Squadron -- SER-GA-156), Georgia Wing's External Director of Aerospace Education (DAE) and a 30-year veteran teacher. He joined CAP almost six years ago after his children joined as cadets because he saw the leadership skills they were developing and the aerospace education lessons they were learning. He wanted to take the AE information he learned back to his own elementary school classroom. Maj. Johnston, who was named the 2018 Civil Air Patrol National Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year, tries to help youth discover the wide scope of careers in the AE industry. "Students and cadets need to learn that there are many more jobs than a pilot in the aerospace industry," he says. "I want youth to see that any job you choose can be used in aerospace applications." We asked him some questions about aerospace education and his Civil Air Patrol and teaching careers. His answers follow:
How many years have you been in Civil Air Patrol? Tell us about your CAP career path that led to your current role.
I have been in CAP almost six years. I joined as an Aerospace Education Officer. Within five months I was asked to be the Deputy Commander for Cadets. I worked in that position for a year and then was asked to be the Deputy Commander for Seniors. When the Squadron Commander position became available, I applied and became the Squadron Commander. The mentors I have had in my short career in the Civil Air Patrol have pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and do things I never thought possible. They saw leadership potential in me that I did not see in myself. and then helped me to grow as an AEO and in leadership.
I have also worked with schools and the community promoting Civil Air Patrol and the Aerospace Education Program. I was able to talk to the principal at my school about the Aerospace Education Member (AEM) program. She was so impressed with the program that she had every teacher join as an AEM. I led the school in the Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) program the first year. Friendship Elementary was the 2017 and 2019 National ACE School of the Year. When the Georgia Wing External Aerospace Education Officer position was announced, I was encouraged to apply by my squadron commander. I applied and was assigned as the Georgia Wing External Aerospace Education Officer.
I have also been the Aerospace Instructor for two Georgia Wing Encampments. I have worked with the Georgia Wing Aerospace Team to teach aerospace courses during the last four Georgia Wing Conferences. I helped to teach aerospace lessons at the Southeast Region Conference, along with speaking at numerous STEM and science conferences about the Civil Air Patrol STEM Kits and aerospace education lessons.
How did you get involved in Civil Air Patrol?
My children joined, and I saw the leadership skills they were developing and the aerospace lessons they were learning. I joined to learn more about Aerospace Education and take the information back to my own classroom and the school where I am a teacher.
Is there anything else about your aerospace education background that you'd like to include such as awards and achievements?
When I joined CAP, I did not have a background in aerospace education. Since joining, I have attended the National AEO/AEM School in Pensacola, Teacher Air Camp in Dayton, Ohio, SPACE Conference, Kennedy Space Center and Wing, Region, and National Conferences to learn more about aerospace education. I have met people that shared their knowledge in flying, rockets, space and STEM.
I have been awarded the 2017 National ACE Coordinator of the Year, 2018 National ACE Ambassador of the Year, 2019 Georgia Wing Aerospace Education Officer of the Year and the 2018 Civil Air Patrol National Teacher of the Year.
Tell us about your career outside of Civil Air Patrol. How did you begin teaching and why you have stayed in it?
This is my 30th year as a public school teacher. I started teaching middle school students with behavior disorders. I learned early in my career that many students excel when given hands-on lessons. Students learn more when you involve multiple senses. I have carried this knowledge with me in all of my lessons. I have used hands-on activities as I taught elementary students, college students and adults. I am presently teaching gifted and high-achieving elementary students.
Why do you work in the Aerospace Education mission area? Why do you encourage youth in the Aerospace Education area?
The Aerospace Education mission has hands-on real world activities for the cadets. The mission is important and helps with critical thinking skills students and cadets need today. It also helps me as I teach my own class with ideas, materials, and hands-on lessons to keep the cadets and students interested in learning. When you think of aerospace education, you think of rockets and planes. It is much more, you need a computer programmer to design the fly-by wire systems, the welder to join the pieces together, the electrician to run design and run the wires for the aircraft, the nutritionist to develop food for space exploration and many more. Students and cadets need to learn that there are many more jobs than a pilot in the aerospace industry. I want youth to see that any job you choose can be used in aerospace applications.
Tell us about your school’s work with the ACE program. We understand your school’s ACE work has often been recognized for excellence. What kind of impact does the ACE program make at your school?
Friendship Elementary has been recognized as the National ACE School of the Year two times. Dr. Tracie Brack, the school principal, saw the value that the ACE Program would bring to the school and has encouraged the teachers every year. The teachers enjoy the ACE lesson plans and the students enjoy the hands-on activities. We have every teacher in the school enroll in ACE each year. In October we have ACE Kick-Off Day. The teachers will teach a lesson and rotate throughout the day. Students are able to have many different ACE activities in one day. To complete ACE, teachers will teach the remaining lessons throughout the year. This year our school's music teacher was awarded the 2020 National ACE Specialist Teacher of the Year for her work teaching the multiple lessons per grade level with music.
The teachers and students all enjoy ACE Kick-Off Day and the ACE lessons throughout the year. The teachers have commented that students really enjoy the lessons, and they have better behavior from the students on ACE lesson days.
Tell us about any Civil Air Programs (such as STEM Kits, TOP Flights, ACE, AEX) you use internally and externally.
I have used many of the STEM Kits. I do use the model rocketry kits every year with my fifth-grade students. The students learn about the Space Race in social studies and chemical and physical change in science. The students build the rocket (physical change), then learn about how they fly (Space Race), then launch their own rocket (chemical change). It gives them real world and hands-on activities to help them make connections. I also use the Sphero kit for students to learn programming and critical thinking to build an algorithm.
In addition, I use the ACE and AEX curriculum for my class. The lessons are easy to follow and use inexpensive items to complete. The lessons integrate easily with the standards I teach. This makes it easy for me to teach standards and use premade lessons the students enjoy.
I have worked with teachers to take their Teacher Orientation Program (TOP) Flights. I have also taken a TOP Flight. Every teacher tells me how much they enjoyed and learned from the flights. The pilots give the teachers a hands-on learning experience. Teachers learn flight and plane terms and even how to control planes in flight. When they land, they are always smiling and talking about how they will use it in their class.
What is the best advice you have for a new AE Officer working with cadets?
The best advice for a new AEO would be to find an AEO to mentor you. The National AE Team has created a great resource for AEO and AEM members. Work with a seasoned AEO to find an AEX lesson for you to teach or pick a STEM Kit you would like to learn more about, and then research it. Once you find a mentor, study for and take the Yeager Test. The Yeager is a wonderful way to learn about the history of flight and aerospace. You will gain a greater understanding of what the cadets need to learn as they work their way to the Billy Mitchell Milestone.
Do you have any suggestions for how to conduct outreach in schools (working with students and recruiting AEMs)?
Tell teachers about CAP -- Aerospace Education Memberships, ACE, AEX and STEM Kits. Let them know what is offered to AEMs. Teachers spend a lot of their own money and get nothing in return. After becoming an AEM, teachers continue to use and receive free lessons, activities, STEM Kits and expert knowledge. Many teachers find it hard to believe what they are offered for so little. Teachers telling teachers is the best way to recruit AEMs. AEMs need mentoring also. Once a person joins as an AEM, keep in touch, ask them what they need help with and find a squadron near them to help. Working with AEMs is an easy way to show the external aerospace education. It helps the AEMs, the students, the cadets and Civil Air Patrol.
Please tell an anecdote of a rewarding experience working with cadets and/or students or teachers:
The most rewarding experience I have had working with CAP was launching rockets with the City of Sugar Hill to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the launch of Apollo XI. We had over 70 rockets set up and ready to launch. We had a large crowd and let the children launch the rockets. The big eyes and look of pure joy on their faces as they pressed the launch button and watched the rocket ignite and then lift-off was priceless. Seeing it happen over and over was wonderful.
Maj. Johnston works with youth in the City of Sugar Hill, Georgia's rocket event.