Houser receives educator grant and Teacher of the Year award


Holy Trinity Lower School librarian Judy Houser shows the three littleBits Rule Your Room kits she bought with money from an educator grant to students Gianna Theodoropoulos, left, Emily DeRosier and Mia Rakita. Houser was recently named the AFA Cape Canaveral Chapter Teacher of the Year for the third time.

photo by Carl Kotala

Holy Trinity Lower School students aren’t the only ones who think their librarian, Judy Houser, is pretty special.

Earlier this year, the national Air Force Association (AFA) not only gave Houser a $250 Educator Grant, but the AFA Cape Canaveral Chapter named her Teacher of the Year for the third time.

Because it was Houser’s third win, the chapter added an additional $500 to her award.

“Mrs. Houser is a master teacher and she definitely has a vision for the future,” said Catherine Koos, head of Holy Trinity’s Lower School. “I love how she is always willing to reinvent herself as a teacher to stay up-to-date on education.”

The latest AFA grant is the fifth Houser has received since 2011 and the seventh the Lower School has received overall, more than any other school in Brevard County. Educator grants are awarded to teachers for use in projects promoting STEM learning.

Houser, who also serves as director of enrichment and teaches TEAM 5 and 6 classes submitted her grant to purchase three littleBits “Rule Your Room” kits for students to invent electronics projects.

One student designed his own littleBits-powered fan. Another made a “Defend Your Domain” room alarm.

“I had a student who was using the littleBits and the Makey Makey to make a buzzer sound,” Houser said. “When he would touch both ends of the alligator clip, it would sound.

“Well, he laid one clip down and I picked it up and I touched him on the arm. He saw it buzz, and he looked, and I let go. Then, I touched him again and he realized current, the electronic circuit, was going through both of us and it was only when we connected that the circuit closed and the buzzer would go off.

“It was really exciting. Not only did I see the buzzer go off, but I felt like I saw the light bulb go off above his head.”

In addition to the littleBits equipment, the Lower School library is also equipped with a Makerspace area thanks to a $10,000 donation by the Harris Corporation. It features a 3D printer and, thanks to another donation by the parents association, a laser cutter.

Now, the library has become a popular destination.

“I thought my circulation might drop,” Houser said. “My circulation has increased because kids love to be in here.”

Koos said she has also observed a high level of engagement from the students, including children who go to the library for recess to work on projects.

“I think the biggest thing with Judy is she wants the library to be a real hub for the children, so everybody wants to be there, wants to be learning,” Koos said.