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Texas AEM Melanie Justice says students take pride in the work they create and design using CAP lessons

Posted on February 10, 2022 at 4:59 PM by Virginia Smith

Melanie Justice and students working with a parachute outside

Melanie Justice, a P.E. teacher at Creekside Elementary in Livingston, Texas, is the 2020-2021 National ACE School Coordinator of the Year, and Creekside is the National ACE School of the Year.

February 10, 2022

Meet Melanie Justice of Creekside Elementary in Livingston, Texas. As a physical education teacher, she shows how CAP's AE program crosses disciplines. She chose to be a P.E. teacher after working in summer camps in college and changed her major from marketing to education. For the 2020-2021 School Year, she was named National Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) School Coordinator of the Year, and Creekside, a rural Title I school, was selected as National ACE School of the Year. This past November, the National ACE Lift-Off for 2021-2022 was held at Creekside. The recognition came in her second year of being an ACE teacher. "Our students LOVE the lessons," she says. "The students get so excited when they learn something new. The activities are engaging and thought-provoking." The CAP lessons challenge her students, who are always proud to take home their hands-on creations. "The biggest question we get from the students is, 'Can we take this home?' I almost cry every time they ask."  We asked her some questions about her teaching career and her involvement with Civil Air Patrol, and her answers follow:

Tell us about your current school and what grades you teach.

I teach at Creekside Elementary School, Livingston ISD in Livingston, Texas. It is a public Title I school in a small town (population 5,000) and a rural school. I’m the Physical Education teacher. I teach grades 1-5. The five  “specials” teachers are called The Flight Crew. We are composed of P.E., Music and Computer instructors. Our aerospace day (CAP curriculum) takes place on Thrilling Thursdays. Each of us teaches five total aerospace lessons that day.

How many years have you been an educator and why did you choose this field and physical education?

I have been teaching almost 30 years. During college I worked at summer camps and loved teaching and being outdoors. Halfway through college, I changed my major from marketing to education.

Students are working with Balsa airplanes

Students look forward to ACE day and love the lessons.


How many years have you been involved in Civil Air Patrol?

I have been a CAP AEM for 1.5 years.

How did you get involved in the Civil Air Patrol AEM program?

I attended a Women in Aviation International Conference in Orlando 2020. My husband and young daughter are aviation-minded. I just tagged along. Wow. Once I was in the room, I thought,  "Wow, I can bring this back to my school." The girls were having a blast. I went to every station and picked up as much information as I could and talked to as many people as I could. I talked to two CAP parents at the CAP table. They were sharing their experiences with CAP. When they found out I was I teacher, they introduced me to someone from CAP who gave me information on being an AEM. Having that information has made a world of difference. CAP offers so many resources. Our students look forward to aerospace class every week. It is their favorite class.

Tell us how long you have been an ACE teacher and why you participate? What benefits do your students get from the ACE program?

This is my second year of teaching ACE. Our students LOVE the lessons. The students get so excited when they learn something new. The activities are engaging and thought-provoking. They enjoy being challenged. Some of the outstanding aerospace students are the ones that don’t “shine” in their other subjects. 

Please tell us about the National ACE Lift-Off event in November. How did your students enjoy the experience?

Wow! The event was over the top. I think everyone was overwhelmed with the flurry of activities taking place: The CAP flyover with our assistant principal talking to our students, the CAP mascots, the high school rifle team performance, the parachute drop, the CAP aero-props with the countdown, the speakers, especially the female student from a local high school that recently earned her pilot license. Plus the STEM activities for participants. It was a lot to take in. [Note: Read more about that event here. See a video of Melanie Justice talking about the event here.] 

Please describe any other Civil Air Patrol education programs you participate in and why you participate. 

We participate in the Aerospace Excellence in Education Program (AEX). We mix it in with our other aerospace lessons. We use AEX because it offers additional information and activities that we think the students would enjoy. We also use the STEM kits because they provide even more hands-on/engaging for the students. And soon we hope to be participating in the Teacher Orientation Program (TOP) flights as we work on timing and scheduling.

What do you and/or your students like about Civil Air Patrol programs/materials?

It’s new and exciting for our staff and students. It’s almost as much fun as P.E.!

What is the best advice you have for a new AEM working with CAP programs and materials?

Try not to get overwhelmed! Talk to other AEMs. Utilize the assistance from the staff at National Headquarters. It is so much fun!

Please tell an anecdote of a rewarding experience you have had working with students or colleagues using CAP programs:

The biggest question we get from the students is, “Can we take this home?” I almost cry every time they ask. They are so proud of what they made, created, etc. They can’t wait to show it to someone at home.

A large group of students flies balsa planes outside the school  
Teachers pose with a Batman character, who performed search and rescue of Uncle Wiggly Wings parachutes during the ACE Lift-off  

Top, students enjoy a great day at the 2021-2022 National ACE Lift-Off, and teachers pose with "Batman," who provided rescue of stray Uncle Wiggly Wings lesson parachutes at the event.



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