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Dr. Suzanne Banas, Florida AEM

Posted on July 21, 2022 at 3:19 PM by Virginia Smith

Dr. Suzanne Banas has retired after 40 years teaching in public schools in Miami Dade County Florida. Her next project will be a drone academy for high school students.

July 21, 2022

Meet Suzanne Banas, Ph.D., and National Board Certified Teacher, who recently retired from full-time public teaching in Miami Dade County for the past 40 years. Her grandfather and mother were educators who showed her the value of learning and sharing. "What inspires me as an educator is the students that I have the privilege to teach and my love for education," she says. Now that she is retired, she is developing a hybrid/virtual drone academy for secondary students. "Target students include a majority of minority students, girls interested in STEM careers and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds." She has used CAP AE STEM kits in an aerospace program she developed for her own school and other schools. "The STEM kits really are the best at engaging students," she says. "There is nothing better than seeing a child wanting to learn. CAP materials provide a pathway that engages students' curiosity." We asked Dr. Banas some questions about teaching and being a CAP AEM, and her answers follow.

Tell us about your current organization. 

I have recently retired from full-time public-school teaching in Miami Dade County for the past 40 years. I am also an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College, where I work with pre-service teachers. I still love teaching. I am developing a hybrid/virtual drone career academy for secondary students. Through the STEMLyNx Initiative, The Drone Career Academy will work with schools and their students interested in pursuing science and technology careers along defined career pathways — including the drone careers offering. Target students include a majority of minority students, girls interested in STEM careers, and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The Drone Careers program: (a) informs, trains, and certifies students for careers involving UAS and avionics; (b) provides students with line-of-sight flight experience through use of drone simulators and onsite flight practice; and (c) qualifies them for FAA Part 107 licensure and “drone safety” certification through hybrid/online learning experience, live instruction, and hands-on experiences.

How many years have you been an educator? Why did you become an educator and what kept you in the field? 

I have been teaching science for the past 40 years.

I am the teacher who teaches learners a course of study or a practical skill, in addition I also teach learners how to learn and to think. I believe that when deciding what method to use, as a teacher I need to consider the learners' background knowledge, environment and their learning goals as well as standardized curricula. After recently retiring from full-time teaching, to stay a Highly Qualified Teacher I continue to learn through attending and presenting at state and national conferences. I believe I should also be able to deal with learners with different abilities and should also be able to deal with learning problems. Being learning disabled myself in the public-school system gives me a firsthand knowledge of the needs of these learners. I also have played other roles such as helping with the organization of school functions and serving as supervisors for clubs. As an educator, I act as facilitator or coach, using interactive discussions and “hands-on” approaches to help learners learn and apply concepts in all subjects. I have participated in facilitator workshops and understand the use of learning communities. I utilize “props” or “manipulatives” to help my learners understand intangible concepts, solve problems and develop critical thought processes. I try to help every child feel that he/she has worth. Learners grow as ­problem-solvers as they are given choices. I try to create a learning environment where all children can ­enjoy success at least once each day.  

What is your philosophy of teaching?

What inspires me as an educator is the students that I have the privilege to teach and my love for education. School is my home, and the teachers and students are my community. Learning and sharing was gifted to me by my grandfather and mother, both educators. By creating a hands-on classroom atmosphere, students are more engaged, taking initiative in their learning. By providing students with the skills to make difficult decisions regarding resources once they reach adulthood, I create a classroom environment that instills the desire and capacity to live with compassion, integrity and wisdom and the knowledge to put values into action in meaningful ways. I am inspired to provide information to my students about current issues so that they can work through real-life challenges. In an environment that fosters curiosity, creativity and critical thinking, my students can learn anything. By creating this atmosphere of hands-on science, I find that students begin to enjoy science, take initiative in their own learning, and have the desire to continue in the science fields.

My educational beliefs and practices help model empathy as well as promote higher order thinking skills related to cause and effect of our actions, not just for me but also to everyone my life touches. I am inspiring the 3 R's (reverence, respect and responsibility) so my students will have both the passion for, and the commitment to, bringing about positive change. I try and demonstrate the connections between both personal and cultural choices and the fate of other people, other species and the Earth, and that we are personally responsible for creating a better world. My classroom instruction achieves these goals by inspiring my students to identify the values that will guide them through life and by teaching them the process to face complex problems. I want to see a world where each person is prepared for their unique role in creating a better world. Studying the issues that directly affect them provides my students a sense of ownership of their learning and develops a sense of stewardship toward their own surroundings.

I develop relevant learning objectives. For example, students need to become scientists by learning

  • to collect, analyze and interpret data collected

  • to write in a variety of styles and learn to communicate effectively

  • to read books about our world using a variety of perspectives (ecological, geographical, sociological, cultural)

  • to construct and interpret graphs and communicate using mathematical relationships

Using various types of mobile devices, digital cameras, and all the associated software, my students can create various types of multimedia presentations and share with others. By creating this atmosphere of “real” science, I find that students begin to enjoy science, take initiative in their own learning, and have the desire to continue in the science fields. The technological tools that the students need to master help ensure the accuracy and rigor of any project and learning. The instruction promotes active student-based learning with hands-on, project-based approaches.

Please list awards/honors/achievements you have received as an educator that you would like to include.

  • Civil Air Patrol Aerospace Educator of the Year – Florida & Southeast Region 2021

  • American Institute for Aeronautics & Astronautics National Educator of the Year 2021

  • Teacher Hall of Fame Top 10 Finalist 2017, 2021

  • School site Teacher of the Year, MDCPS Region Central Teacher of the Year finalist 2020

  • National STEM Scholar 2017

  • National Geographic Certified Educator 2017

  • Outstanding Middle School Science Teacher-Florida Association of Science Teachers 2016

  • Florida State Winner for the EdSurge Fifty States Project 2016

  • National Middle Level Science Teacher Association Paul Hurd Award Finalist 2016

  • PBS Learning Media Digital Innovator 2015

  • Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators Honorable Mention/Finalist 2014

  • Microsoft U.S. Innovative Education Finalist 2011

  • Teacher Hall of Fame Finalist 2009, 2011

  • Space Foundation Teacher Liaison 2011

  • DCSTA District Middle School Science Teacher of the Year 2009

  • Teacher of Honor - National KDP 2008

  • Fairchild Challenge Environmental Role Model 2009

  • School Site Teacher of the Year 2007, 1998

When did you become a CAP Aerospace Education Member, and how did you get involved with CAP?

I have been an AEM since 2018. A CAP member in my school district shared about her squad and about the AEM program. I learned more about it when I worked at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. 

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

The Aeronautics Program at my school begins this journey with the basic principles of flight using NASA and Smithsonian materials. I wanted to expand on the aeronautics aspect as well as various career options – so I became a CAP Aerospace Educator. In 2017, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Arts created a musical for 7th graders about the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk and how they used the scientific process and mathematical skills to re-engineer each year their flying machine wing design for flight. I was tasked to create a teacher curriculum incorporating the science concepts as part of a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts  and math) booklet. I also conducted teacher workshops since then. I was so well-received by the community that it was decided to provide an afterschool program in three schools. My school was one of them.  Again, I was tasked to develop the curriculum and materials for this program. The Aeronautics program has students go through the STEM process of designing and revising wing designs for paper, balsa and model rockets, as well as 3D printed gliders. In each phase, the students have a challenge to meet and can keep revising to meet the challenge. 

I used several of the CAP STEM kits and books. Since we code drones, I began new coders with the Sphero. They loved guiding it around through various tasks. I then got the Robotic Arm to enhance their coding experience. Since flight is such a major aspect of the program, we then applied for and received the Flight Simulator. We had a CAP recommended pilot teach the students how to use it, and she shared some experiences of being a pilot. Recently we got the online flight simulator and RC plane. WOW! So much to learn! I also got the Weather Station, and they have loved viewing what is happening as the wild weather occurs. We use the Quadcopter to add to our drone section of the program. We also have various guest speakers, and a local CAP high school group has come and talked to my students about their experiences as well as pilots. Another aspect of the Aeronautics Program is the students learn to code drones and create a drone dance which is performed to music on stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

Why do you teach in the Aerospace Education/STEM area?

Being involved in the CAP AE program has led me to learn more about the aerospace industry and about flying. I went to AirCamp in the summer of 2020 and got my first taste of aviation. I am part of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum Teacher Ambassador Program (2019), using aerospace education in our teaching and learning. I am now developing a drone pilot certification/career program for high school students to begin in fall 2022. I am continuing learning and sharing with my students and colleagues.

I recently completed some aviation certifications: Advanced Ground Instructor and Drone Pilot Certification. I have been involved in using NASA aerospace materials in my various science courses and am a Space Station Ambassador. I have used the CAP AE materials also for my physical science classes since they add such a fun aspect to some of the topics of forces and motion. Last year I went to SEEC (Space Exploration Educators Conference) in Houston, Texas. There, I presented about the drone ballet/dance and shared some of the CAP educators’ materials. I have shared the CAP AE materials with my local science teachers and have encouraged them to become CAP AEs themselves.

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

They are relevant, easy-to-use and interesting to these digital-age learners.

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

Go for it. Try them and share with your students. The STEM kits fit well into most curriculum programs. Once you use them, parents will support your instruction more since they will be able to “see” changes in their children. 

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

I had a few middle school students at my last school who enjoyed technology but were not sure what they were interested in. With me having some of the STEM kits already, they were able to “play.”  Watching them learn and share with each other the Sphero bot was fun. But then they wanted more. So they moved on to the drones. Then, they thought, why not learn to fly? So we got the online RC simulation and RC plane. I have not been able to get them away from the computers. They love to try all the “simulated” planes. They want to really fly the RC plane but not until they are proficient with the online version. They are ”flying” online with their computers at home so they can fly the RC plane in August.

The STEM kits really are the best at engaging students. There is nothing better than seeing a child wanting to learn. CAP materials provide a pathway that engages students' curiosity.

Dr. Banas works with students on an indoor drone project.


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