April 4, 2005 — The Astronaut’s Memorial Foundation annual quest to recognize the K-12 school or district-level educator from across the nation who has made the most outstanding contribution or exceptional accomplishment in the use of technology drew many high quality applications. A selection committee of nationally respected leaders chose Ronald “Ron” F. Dantowitz as the person who best met the selection criteria of innovation, excellence of education program and commitment.
Ron is the director of the Clay Center Observatory at Dexter and Southfield Schools located in Brookline, Massachusetts. He designed and directs the observatory, which in two short years has enabled the Dexter and Southfield Schools to become internationally known for its innovative science programs and superb teaching facilities.
In particular, Ron spearheaded a collaboration between Dexter and Southfield Schools and Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites. The project entailed producing a custom-made portable spacecraft tracking system for filming the X-Prize flights of SpaceShipOne. The original goal was to provide a live, close-up video feed of the first commercial flight into space for students in Boston, who would be watching the event through the observatory’s telescopes via satellite. As a result of the very successful high-resolution images transmitted, this historic event was televised on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, BBC, NASA TV, and many other television stations around the world. According to CNN and NBC, these images were seen by more than one billion people.
For 12 years prior to his current position, Ron was an educator at the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science, where he used computers and sophisticated equipment to teach astronomy. He has worked on the use of technology in education for almost 20 years.
The Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award was presented to Ron by The AMF’s president, Dr. Stephen Feldman, in partnership with the Space Foundation and NASA at the 21st National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 4. Joining Dr. Feldman in the presentation was Laura Shepard Churchley, daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard. When asked how it felt to be the recipient of this prestigious national award, Dantowitz replied, “I am honored to be the recipient of this renowned award, and thrilled that the programs at our school have had such an impact on students worldwide. It is a privilege to be recognized in the field of science education when there are so many excellent teachers and programs available to students today.”