Barbara Walters-Phillips, Florida AEM
Posted on October 26, 2023 at 11:23 AM by Virginia Smith
Barbara Walters-Phillips is the STEM coach at Little River Elementary School. The students enjoy a trip to Kennedy Space Center.
October 26, 2023
Meet Barbara Walters-Phillips, the STEM coach at Little River Elementary School in Orlando, Florida. She has been teaching in Orlando for 30 years, having begun her career in Maryland. She became a teacher because she has always loved working with young people. She began integrating aviation into the curriculum early in her career. "My dad was a private pilot, and growing up in Pennsylvania, I spent a lot of weekends at the airport in my small hometown of Mifflintown," she says. "I realized how exciting this was and started teaching aviation to my fifth graders." She became so immersed in aviation that she earned her private pilot's license in 1990. She shares this love of aerospace with her students. "I am very passionate about teaching Aerospace Education because it is so motivating for students! From my elementary school students that I teach at school to the middle and high school students I teach on Saturdays at the airport, it is highly motivating and exciting." She has been an Aerospace Education Member (AEM) with Civil Air Patrol since 1986. "It was a real turning point in my teaching career," she says of CAP. She researched and wrote the CAP booklet Tuskegee Airmen: Red Tail Honor with Pride in collaboration with Susan Mallett of the Aerospace Education National Headquarters staff. She is active in the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) as well as other aviation organizations and has been recognized for her work as an aerospace educator, including being named the 1994 Scott Crossfield Educator of the Year. "I love what I do!" she says. "I am very fortunate to be part of the aviation community, where everyone is so supportive and encouraging of one another." We asked her some questions about her teaching career and her CAP involvement. Her answers follow.
Tell us about your current school. What grades do you teach? What is your role in the school?
I teach at Little River Elementary School in Orange County Public Schools -- Orlando, Florida. We are a Title I school. I am the STEM coach and work with all grade levels but especially grades 3-5, both teachers and students. I am a member of our leadership team and meet weekly with all teachers to look at data and plan their math and science lessons. Also, I teach an aviation class which we call Aviation Club, every Wednesday, and I use the Civil Air Patrol Aerospace Connections in Education (ACE) program with these students.
How many years have you been an educator? Please add anything else about your education career that you would like to share.
In my early years of teaching, I taught fifth grade in Hagerstown, Maryland. Then, I moved to Orlando and have now been here for over 30 years.
I started teaching because I loved working with young people. I was a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons, and I taught Sunday School. The more I was involved in teaching, the more I enjoyed it; so, I knew I wanted to be a teacher.
When I did my student teaching, I taught fifth graders. I decided that was the grade for me. So, for 20 years I did that in Hagerstown. One Saturday, I went to a workshop in Baltimore, where I learned about integrating aviation into the curriculum. I met some amazing people that day, including Scott Crossfield and Mary Feik
My dad was a private pilot, and growing up in Pennsylvania, I spent a lot of weekends at the airport in my small hometown of Mifflintown. I realized how exciting this was and started teaching aviation to my fifth graders. I was encouraged to apply for the Eleanor Roosevelt Grant from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). I had never written a grant, but the purpose of this grant was to motivate middle school girls in Math and Science. I believed aviation could do that, so I wrote the grant for a program I created called Aviation Invasion. My goal was to invade the community with aviation and motivate the girls.
For two years, I taught girls at a time in a hangar at Hagerstown Airport. We met every Monday night for three hours. Even though the girls had been in school all day, they never missed a class! Each session met for 12 Monday nights and three Saturdays. It was a great success, and even to this day, I will hear from some of those girls who are involved in careers in aviation.
I became so immersed in aviation that I went to the local airport and learned to fly. I earned my private pilot's license in 1990.
After moving to Orlando, I continued teaching aviation but moved to the middle school for a few years. My husband and I restored a Cessna 150 cockpit for my classroom. The shop teacher and his students built a base for it, and we could move it around. We had headsets so they could listen to the air traffic controllers and pilots talking on the radio at Orlando Executive Airport. I was able to take each class to the airport for an afternoon field trip.
I continued my Aviation Invasion program for middle school girls, but soon the boys wanted to join us; so, I began teaching summer camps at the airport for both boys and girls. Then I got involved with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and the Orlando Youth Aviation Center. I coordinate the Introduction to Aviation program for 12- to 17-year-olds that meets every Saturday morning at Orlando Executive in the EAA Chapter 74 Clubhouse. To help teach some of the classes, I recruited chapter members.
I am president of Chapter 74 and the Orlando Youth Aviation Center. Our goal is to teach students about aviation and how planes fly as well as sharing a variety of aviation-related careers and completing hands-on projects -- including building models, wing ribs and learning to rivet. We visit the Sheriff's hangar and the Air Traffic Control Tower.
Students love the classes and always have perfect attendance. They do flight planning to three local airports, and the final week is their graduation flight where they fly the trip they planned. Pilots in our EAA chapter provide the planes and give each student the opportunity to sit in the right seat and fly one leg of the flight. They land and change seats at each airport. This is the highlight of the program!
Please list any awards/honors/achievements you have received as an educator that you would like to include.
Teacher of the Year-Glenridge Middle School-1996
Teacher of the Year-Cheney Elementary School-2018
Scott Crossfield Aerospace Educator of the Year-1994
Christa McAuliffe National AFA Teacher of the Year-1995
EAA Major Achievement Award-2013
Women in Aviation, International-Bruce Baty Volunteer of the Year Award-2017
Katharine Wright Trophy-NAA-2019
AFA Chapter Member of the Year-2022
AFA Medal of Merit-2011 and 2022
Distinguished Alumni Award-Shippensburg University-2022
Please describe any Civil Air Patrol Aerospace Education programs you participate in and why you participate.
I participate in the ACE program because I love the curriculum! I use the 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade materials each year, and the students genuinely enjoy the lessons. There is a lot of variety with having the academic, character education and physical education lessons. I appreciate that the materials are updated each year, and they are absolutely ready for teachers to use.
I have also used the STEM kits, and they are a great hands-on resource. I just wish I had more hours in the day for students to use these! They are always a highlight of the day.
I also like using those with my Introduction to Aviation classes that meet on Saturday mornings. Students enjoy using the STEM kits and working in small groups. These provide a wonderful opportunity for students to experience new technology.
How many years have you been involved in Civil Air Patrol and how did you get involved?
I joined CAP in 1986 and attended my first National Congress on Aviation and Space Education that year. I have been involved with CAP ever since. It was a real turning point in my teaching career.
Please tell us about the work you did with the “Tuskegee Airmen: Red Tail Honor with Pride” booklet.
Barbara Walters-Phillips, left, and Susan Mallett, shown making an AE presentation, collaborated on CAP's Tuskegee Airmen curriculum booklet.
I had the wonderful opportunity to research and write curriculum for the Tuskegee Airmen: Red Tail Honor with Pride booklet. This allowed me to learn so much about so many Tuskegee Airmen. I loved every minute of this and felt like I got to know each one as I read about their amazing accomplishments and how they overcame obstacles. I was very fortunate to meet General Charles McGee on several occasions and talk with him about his experiences. I especially enjoyed visiting with him and George Hardy (Tuskegee Airman) at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a few years ago. I am very grateful to Susan Mallett for all her guidance and support in writing the booklet. Her expertise in putting it together and providing the finishing touches makes it very attractive and appealing.
Why do you teach in the Aerospace Education/STEM area?
I am very passionate about teaching Aerospace Education because it is so motivating for students! From my elementary school students that I teach at school to the middle and high school students I teach on Saturdays at the airport, it is highly motivating and exciting. I am excited because the students are excited! I look forward to teaching aerospace lessons and truly believe they make a difference for young people. Students learn about careers they never dreamed of and visit places on the airport that they could never see on their own. We are providing opportunities for them to learn about the many aviation-related careers that will be available to them in the near future.
What is the best advice you have for a new AEM working with CAP programs and materials?
Civil Air Patrol is a golden opportunity for teachers and students. Take the time to learn about the programs and materials that are available and share them with your students. You will benefit as much as your students! They add fun and excitement to your classroom, and your students will love coming to school!
Please tell an anecdote of a rewarding experience you have had working with students or colleagues using CAP programs.
I loved the trips for educators we used to take in the summers in collaboration with CAP. The educators traveled to many different locations and had firsthand experiences in the aerospace field on these trips. We traveled to California, where we visited Palmdale and learned about the balloon Art Thompson designed for Felix Baumgardner's jump. We went to JPL and met with those who worked on the Mars rover. And we were the first group to ever tour Space X! We went to Edwards AFB and the test pilot school. We have been to Albuquerque and flew on a hot air balloon and Seattle, where we flew on a seaplane and toured Boeing. What amazing experiences for teachers! We would never have these opportunities without CAP! We have made so many friends, and we continue to share our aerospace activities with each other. We then take these lessons and activities back to school and share them with our students.
Is there anything we didn't ask that you'd like to say?
I love what I do! I am very fortunate to be part of the aviation community, where everyone is so supportive and encouraging of one another.
Little River's Aviation Club uses CAP's ACE Program.
Barbara-Walters Phillips enjoys presenting workshops to teachers.
She has been interested in aviation since she was young.