Billy Hix describes himself as a country boy from Flat Creek who has always had an eye on the sky.
His curiosity turned into a thirst for knowledge and his love of science and space led him to become an associate professor of education at Motlow College and a consultant for NASA.
His passion for teaching has earned Hix many accolades over the years, including being named Science Teacher of the Year for higher education in the state of Tennessee.
His latest award reaches far beyond the state’s borders. The Space Foundation, known as the unifying body of all space agencies in the world, has selected him to join the highly regarded Teacher Liaison Program. Hix will be called upon to teach in various venues across the country and to be a spokesperson at the national level to increase STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
Hix recently attended the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. to accept the award and train for his duties.
“This is a great honor and a dream come true for me,” said Hix. “I have felt like a kid in a candy store.”
Noted scientist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson spent an afternoon with the teacher liaisons, and they also brought in Bill Nye, the Science Guy, to spend part of a day with them. “I got to be part of the world’s largest gathering of space industry professionals.”
He said that as exciting as it was for him to be exposed to new teaching materials and ways to inspire students in the classroom, he was saddened to learn that every country in the world that has space assets increased their spending last year except for the United States.
“Even the Europeans, with the financial mess they are in, increased spending in space by four percent. Many U.S. space professionals see this as a real downfall for our students,” he said.
“Other countries talk about space education with excitement like we had in the 1960s. A teacher liaison from Japan told me the hardest part of her job was keeping parents from pushing her and her students too hard.
“Sadly, in many of our schools, lack of parental support is part of the problem. When I visit schools, kids are almost always excited to learn how something works and to do science experiments; but when they go home, there is no vision or hope of tomorrow.”
Hix explained his formula for becoming a good teacher.
“To be a good teacher, one must be innovative, be able to use the technology that our students are used to, but more importantly, our curriculum must be fresh and up-to-date. Higher order thinking skills must be employed and we should be able to integrate technology as a learning tool, not as a piece of hardware. I never thought I would have the chance to grow as I have through this new teaching opportunity. My students next year will surely benefit from the new materials provided and the experiences I will bring to the classroom.”
A full slate of teaching awaits Hix as he has planned at least five STEM camps for middle school students in surrounding counties this summer. He and fellow educator Terry Sue Fanning will also be conducting teacher STEM camps this summer and fall, a project funded by the State Department of Education. In addition to teaching a full load of classes at three of Motlow’s locations (Moore County, Fayetteville and McMinnville), Hix also serves as a motivational speaker.