Star of Stars - Stoneman Douglas Astronomer Is Teacher of the Year
By David Volz / May 1, 2016

Teacher Kyle Jeter's astronomy classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are so popular, they fill up fast.

Honors student Alex Kahn is a recent convert. "The class is very interesting and I have enjoyed learning about planets in our solar system, stars, star clusters, and constellations. I want to learn more about astronomy. Mr. Jeter puts a lot of effort into his class," said Kahn.

Samantha Maldonado also loves studying astronomy with Jeter and has been active in the astronomy club, which Jeter sponsors. She was also part of Jeter's Project Aquila, which sends a high-altitude balloon into the stratosphere to take video and gather data on the atmosphere. "I was able to do art using photographs of the stars. I love being a part the astronomy club and his class," said Maldonado.

Jeter, who was named Teacher of the Year for Broward County Public Schools at a ceremony in April, began the Stoneman Douglas astronomy program in 1997. He had 22 students. Now he teaches more than 230 teens.

"Half my class is traditional lecture," said Jeter. "The rest of the time I have the students work in small collaborative teams where they work on astronomy projects. I have them work on art projects involving astronomy and I have them create their own websites on astronomy topics. They can participate in some ongoing citizen science projects. They can follow current events on space-related websites."

Jeter also has his students use a telescope to see the stars and planets and learn more about bodies in the universe. They even learn how to assemble a telescope. During a recent class, he was giving a presentation on black holes and the latest research on them. The students were participating in a citizen science project and helped scientists analyze data and pictures. Students were eager to learn about the latest research on black holes.

Jordan Moses said he will continue studying astronomy after high school. "This is something I will always be able to use. I will always have an interest in studying the stars," he said.

Kaitlyn Valenz liked doing the astronomy art projects. "I think this class is fun and I enjoy having Jeter as a teacher," she said.

Ty Thompson, the principal at Stoneman Douglas, was very proud of Jeter's award. "We were excited and I jumped for joy. He is an awesome teacher and he deserves this recognition." Thompson is impressed with how Jeter relates to students. "He knows a lot about astronomy, and he can work with the latest technology. His classes are very interesting and many students want to be in his classes," said Thompson.

Jeter hopes to continue developing the astronomy program. He and some of his students founded the astronomy club in 2006. The club organizes activities and plans an Astronomy Night. It also goes on an annual field trip to the Kennedy Space Center.

Jeter and fellow teachers Frank Krar and Sean Simpson created Project Aquila. Students and teachers work together to launch video cameras and sensors. Data from the flight of the high-altitude balloon is collected and analyzed.

Student Gabriela Kostzer enjoys learning more about astronomy. "We get to learn about what is above us," she said.

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