Page 7 - NOV2023
P. 7

 By Donna RhoDes
Engineering Educators Associa- tion to do a major revision and update teaching standards for K-12 STEM students. The re- sult was the ITEEA Standards for Technological and Engineer- ing Literacy, published in 2022 and now used in classrooms nationwide. Another goal is to teach them things that will help in other classes, too. When her first graders were getting ready to go on an apple-picking trip, she brought apples into her les- son plans for them.
“How can you make an ap- ple-carrying container? How many apples will it hold?” she asked them. “What should it look like? How will you build it?”
Hearing the container should hold at least six apples, they began brainstorming plans on how to build one that would meet their needs. During testing, some students found their con- tainer needed to be bigger; some found the handles fell apart as they tried carrying apples down the hallway. Rather than start all over again, she encouraged them to search for what was wrong in the design they had and then fix it. Mission accomplished.
Through CAP, Panus has also found a wealth of information and activities that she has brought to the classroom over the years. Kits she’s received have pertained to model rocketry, weather sta- tions, and even electric snap cir- cuitry. Once the challenges of each have been met, she fills out a review on the kit and then sends in an application for another.
Besides her classes, Panus began a STEM Council at the school, along with a Technology Student Association for Grades 5-8, which had 20 students attending one
recent after-school meeting. “It’s a career and technical service organization, kind of like FFA is with agriculture,” she ex-
The students take part in
state competitions each year with the potential to go on to the national competition. One year, her TSA students took first place in website design.
She also started a grant- funded VEX IQ robotics team that participates in competitions as well. Last year, they won the Judges Award in the NH/VT State Championship. There are now over 45 students (Grades 4-8) who take part in robotics at varying levels, including Lego robotics for younger students.
Outside of school, Panus is also the lead educator at the nonprofit Aviation and Aero- space Education Center at Win- nipesaukee (“WinnAero”) for their Aviation Career Educa- tion (ACE) camps each summer. Now in its 14th year, the camp located at Laconia Airport at- tracts students from all across the country. Information on this unique camp can be found at
Over the years, she has pre- sented at numerous national conferences, judged many com- petitions, and even led her Hawk Squadron Cadets to a fourth- place finish out of 180 entries in the annual CAP High Altitude Balloon Challenge.
Principal Tonya Orlando is proud to have Panus as a teacher at PES and perhaps wasn’t as surprised as Panus was when she received the national award.
“It’s wonderful that she’s gotten the recognition she de- serves,” Orlando said.
PLYMOUTH – Pemi-Baker Regional School District and its staff have received many ac- colades and awards over the years, locally, state, and nation- ally, but the most recent was one awarded to Plymouth Elemen- tary School STEM teacher Julie Sicks-Panus for her outstanding work with youth from kinder- garten through eighth grade in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Panus said her nomination for the Civil Air Patrol’s annual Educator of the Year awards came from local CAP Squad- ron Commander Bill Moran. She was first named 2022 N.H. Wing Aerospace Educator of the Year, the 2022 N.H. Wing Aerospace Officer of the Year, then received the distinction of winning the Educator of the Year award for the Northeast Division of the CAP, comprised of all New England states, N.Y., N.J., and Pa. From there, she went on to Bellevue, Washing- ton this past summer, where she received their esteemed Civil Air Patrol 2023 Aerospace Educator of the Year national award.
“You could have knocked me over with a feather. It was a huge honor,” she said.
Panus graduated from Fitch- burg State University, where she was one of the only women en-
This past summer Maj. Gen. Edward Phelka of the Civil Air Patrol presented their national 2023 Aerospace Educator of the Year award to Plymouth Elementary School’s STEM teacher Julie Sicks-Panus in
PES Teacher Receives Teacher of The Year Award from Civil Air Patrol
 Bellevue, Washington.
rolled for a degree in Industrial Arts. “My college classmates used to call me Mrs. Goodwrench,”
she laughed.
She also grew up with a
passion for aerospace, which she declares is “super fun,” and joined the Civil Air Patrol. Panus is now a captain and the CAP Wing Director of Aero- space Education, and in 2022 led 37 young cadets to earn their Model Rocketry Badge.
Her STEM teaching career began in Littleton, where she was a middle school shop teacher for
four years, instructing students in woodworking and graphic design. In 1998, she moved to Plymouth Elementary School, where she introduced students from kinder- garten through eighth grade to the wonders of engineering and problem-solving.
“There were no books or curriculum for that, though, so I kind of had to create my own program,” Panus said.
Itturnedouttobeoneofa kind in the state.
Her goal is to help children discover how to solve problems while having some fun at the same time. In her classroom, they are asked to work together in small groups to consider a challenge she presents, develop a hypothesis (theory) on how to ap- proach it, and then use their skills to make it work. And if it doesn’t work the first time, that’s okay.
“When engineers are build- ing a rocket, and it doesn’t work, they don’t start all over again and build another rocket. They find out what the problem with it is and then fix it. That’s what I ask them to do, too,” said Panus.
That educational concept led her to become involved in de- veloping a STEM curriculum at the state level. She was also part of a collaborative team for the International Technology and
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Plymouth Elementary School STEM teacher Julie Sicks-Panus displayed her Civil Air Patrol 2023 Aerospace Educator of the Year award along with the Judges Award her students won recently in a NH/VT State Championship competition for the VEX IQ Challenge. PHOTO BY DONNA RHODES

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