Posted: Monday, February 6, 2017

Wade Hampton High’s Beth Leavitt Named National Space Educator of the Year

“I was always very inquisitive,” said Beth Leavitt, Wade Hampton High physics and engineering teacher. “I was that odd child that instead of asking for a bicycle, I asked for a microscope. I was that kid who was going around snipping people’s hair so I could look at it under the microscope.”

“When you vacate all the air outside a balloon it will expand,” explains Leavitt.After working for 12 years as a biochemist in the private sector, Mrs. Leavitt decided it was time to ‘come out from behind the microscope’ and become a teacher. “Working as an environmental chemist proved invaluable to me as I use this experience to make me a better teacher,” she said. “I think physics and engineering are great opportunities to show students how relevant science is to the real world. So I take every opportunity to infuse real-world applications into the classroom.”

Mrs. Leavitt participates in NASA Teacher Workshops.As an example, Leavitt uses a vacuum cleaner and large plastic bag to demonstrate to students what 2,000 pounds of pressure would feel like in space. “We take it for granted that we have atmospheric pressure.  We take it for granted that we have 14.7 pounds of pressure per square inch on our body. How come we don’t feel it? We’re used to it,” she tells her students.

In her spare time, Leavitt leads Wade Hampton High’s FIRST Robotics team 283 which competes in games against other teams from around the world.

In her spare time, Leavitt leads Wade Hampton High’s FIRST Robotics team 283.Leavitt recently learned that she is the winner of the 2017 Space Educator Award from the National Space Club. The award is given annually to recognize the importance of the secondary school teacher in motivating and guiding high school students in the study of and careers in space science and technology.

Leavitt uses a vacuum cleaner and large plastic bag to demonstrate to students what 2,000 pounds of pressure would feel like in space.“I would love to go to space,” said Leavitt. “I would love to be first female teacher on the moon. If I could ever meet Elon Musk maybe he could make me the first flight attendant in space,” she added with a smile.

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