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Beth Bero at Horizon Elementary School has been awarded the prestigious 2020 AIAA Foundation Educator Achievement Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. CONTRIBUTED

Bero earns aeronautics educator achievement award

MADISON – Elizabeth Bero has been recognized by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics or AIAA for her work since 1980 with students in science and astronomy.

Bero has served as Gifted Specialist at Horizon Elementary School since 2003.

Bero received the 2020 AIAA Foundation Educator Achievement Award from the nomination by AIAA member Dr. Naveen Vetcha at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Bero was surprised to receive a telephone call from Washington, D.C. with the news about her national recognition. Bero is one of only three U.S. teachers to receive the award this year.

The award’s inscription states, “For instilling a sense of wonder in students through curiosity-based learning and for her four-decade long service to the community as an educator.”

Bero’s career in education started in 1980 as a fifth-grade teacher in Wimauma, Fla. In 1983 in Tampa, she was selected to teach and help write textbook sections for the new “Earth Science/Astronomy” class.

She completed a master’s degree in gifted education in 1987. Bero worked at UAH and NASA before joining Horizon’s faculty.

For Horizon’s Space Week, coordinator Bero schedules a portable planetarium from Woodmen of the World Insurance Agency in Hartselle for all classes to explore. Huntsville Area Rocketry Association visits to launch model rockets for a school-wide audience.

In 2014, Bero won the “Best Environmental Education Program Award” from Environmental Educators’ Association of Alabama for Horizon Eco-Kids who recycle, maintain gardens and trails, along with adopting trees.

She earned grants to create both vegetable and butterfly gardens. Bero recruited Boy Scout Eagles to build outdoor classroom spaces.

A tireless advocate, Bero coordinates Horizon’s science fair. Students advance to the North Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair at UAH.

Her fifth-grade gifted students select curriculum topics, like astronomy, forensics, economics, creative writing, technology or Maker Space. In 2019, Bero’s space science students researched a mission to a distant planet and received actual feedback on presentations from NASA scientists.

In 1990, Bero joined the Von Braun Astronomical Society and currently is president. She authored and contributed lesson plans for meteorites/micrometeorites to AIAA.

From Bero’s AIAA award, Horizon will receive $5,000 to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM study. Bero hopes the money will benefit all students, possibly with Space Week enhancements or STEM materials.

“STEM is a way of getting students excited about the future,” Bero said, “and a huge part of our community. We do science projects at Horizon because asking a question, collecting data, analyzing that data and presenting it to others happens daily in the real world among adults. There’s no better way to help students understand the scientific process than to allow them to choose what they want to research.”

Due to school shutdown, Executive Director AIAA Dan Dumbacher couldn’t visit Horizon to present the $5,000 award to Bero and Principal Rodney Richardson. However, Bero plans to attend an awards gala in Washington D.C. in May.

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