The development of District 214’s Aviation Academy began after District administrators learned of a powerful statistic.
Boeing in 2016 reported that more than 2.4 million new aviation professionals would be needed to fly and maintain the world fleet over the next 20 years. Wanting to help District 214 students gain access to these careers, Dan Weidner led the charge to create opportunities and classes focused on aviation.
Today, more than 1,000 students are enrolled in the District’s new Aviation Career Pathway, which lets students explore careers in this field through workplace learning experiences and a sequence of courses. The senior-level class, Aviation Academy, lets students simultaneously earn high school and college credit and gain hours toward an FAA credential. The class is taught at the Chicago Executive Airport.
Weidner, the District’s director of academic and pathway programs, was named the recipient of the 2019 Dr. Elizabeth A. Ennis Innovator Award.
Creating this pathway was no easy feat. Weidner worked with over 20 stakeholders beginning in July 2017 to develop the groundwork and immersed himself in aviation education and careers.
From there, Weidner created a collaborative process to help build curriculum and opportunities, from developing dual credit agreements with Lewis University, finding an airport hangar, airplane and instructor to teach the senior-level aviation class and gaining approval from the FAA to allow high school students to begin their training toward their Aviation Maintenance Technician certification.
Weidner has continued to develop the Aviation Career Pathway with plans for expansion to pilot training and certifications in unmanned aerial vehicles.
“This work was daunting as efforts of this manner had never been attempted at a high school but through leveraging partnerships and a massive amount of work, we successfully launched the program with our first class of Aviation Academy students during the summer of 2018, a mere 13 months after it was simply an idea and a dream.”