By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
The Era Independent School District (EISD) received the Texas Wing, Southwest Region and National Aerospace Frank Brewer Organizational Award for 11 years of dedicated hard work and documentation promoting the Aerospace Education programs coordinated by Era science teacher and assistant principal Michael Parkhill.
Parkhill, a 1988 graduate of Gainesville High School, was also honored as Texas Wing Aerospace Teacher of the Year Award for Aerospace Education Outreach. He accepted these awards at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Houston from former NASA flight director Gene Kranz.
Actor Ed Harris portrayed Kranz in the 1995 best picture nominee “Apollo 13.”
For over 18 years Parkhill’s expertise in aeronautics has led the Era ISD to develop a student science and engineering team at Era High School in which an aerospace engineering program is promoted as an elective for junior and senior students.
Era superintendent Jeremy Thompson said Parkhill’s unique knowledge has been a strong asset for Era and that the district has now adopted a curriculum in which the strengths and special training of Era educators may provide for a custom or tailored plan of study for student electives.
Regarding aeronautics Thompson said, “We have a program at Era that many larger schools in the country do not have. Because of Mr. Parkhill’s expertise, our students have been exposed to engineering and science projects that are above and beyond the normal realm of a small school.”
Upon notification of receiving the award, Parkhill said, “Our program in Era beat out much larger schools and commercial entities across the state. Our students have done some amazing things and are continuing to do so after graduation from Era.”
In his nomination of the Era ISD for the award Parkhill wrote, “...In a world of standardized tests and a general lack of interest of the United States population in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, this small school district has done much to promote and make aerospace education a real career option and attainable educational goal for its students for nearly twenty years.’
The aeronautics and engineering program is one of many innovative classes offered at Era High School.
“Our students today have access to knowledge now in ways that were not even around just a few years back,” Thompson said. “It’s our job now as educators to teach them how to use this knowledge. Our graduates can choose career directions today that were not even on the horizon as little as 3-5 years ago. We have to keep up.”