He wanted to be a pilot when he went to college, but Proviso East High School physics teacher Edward Beidas couldn’t afford the flight lessons.
“So I got into the physics side of aeronautics,” said Beidas, Proviso East Science Department head, who teaches both AP and aviation physics.
Beidas is the newest teacher awarded a $1,000 scholarship by the Common Roots Initiative, a nonprofit group formed by Proviso East High School alumni. Last June, CRI awarded the scholarship to PEHS chemistry teacher Glenn Lid.
Beidas also just found out he’s been nominated for a Golden Apple award.
After teaching at Proviso East for 18 years, Beidas is sharing his love of all-things-aviation with his students at the high school. For the past five years he has built a special flight simulator lab with 20 simulators at the school. Students in his aviation physics class can simulate take-offs and landings at 24,000 different worldwide airports, aided by computer programs and a special foot pedal.
Although he never got his private pilot’s license, Beidas pretends to fly aircraft even at home.
“I have [a flight simulator] myself. I have been practicing at home. I’ve been playing with it a lot as a hobby.”
He set up the high school lab working with his alma mater, Lewis University in Romeoville, which has aviation and aeronautic engineering programs.
“We basically duplicated the lab at Lewis,” Beidas said. Students also practice building and designing wings for aircrafts. Lewis also has a meteorology program, which uses the skills he teaches in AP and aviation physics.
The aviation program at Lewis feeds into five areas of aviation, Beidas said, piloting, electrical engineering, airport management, airport security and airport controllers. More importantly, there are jobs in the aviation industry.
“The job market is huge for these sectors,” he said, adding that he’ll use the CRI monies to fund transportation for 20 students to Lewis where they’ll attend aviation workshops. They will also visit the Museum of Science and Industry to simulate space flight.
Beidas is trying to track down scholarship money for high school students who want to get a private pilot license. He’s also planning to take the students on a field trip to Du Page airport and have them possibly get some air time. He said a couple of other high schools, such as Lyons Township in LaGrange, have aviation departments where students can get a pilot’s license “just like a driver’s license.”
“I have contacted some of the airlines. That is another project on my plate,” Beidas said.
The Common Roots Initiative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, created by alumni of Proviso East High school.
Founder and president, Soumya Rao, grew up in Forest Park and graduated from Proviso East in 1995. Rao lives in Bolingbrook and works as a client consultant for a health insurance company.
The group is made of “high school friends and family who decided that giving back to their community meant helping to make an impact on both sides of the school desk,” said board member Kesha Green.
Other CRI board members who graduated from Proviso East in the mid-1990s include Jonathon Bus, Jennifer Cassell and Ashuman (Shay) Rao. The group’s members also include educator Mike Cavallo.
Beidas, who will retire in four years, said he remembers the CRI alumni well.
“They were previous students of mine. They were alumni who kept in touch with me and the school. They let us know what they are doing in their lives.”
Beidas didn’t expect to win the scholarship. “I applied and I’m surprised I got it,” he said.
He has started other clubs over the years, including the school’s first Chess Club, the Percy Julian Symposium (a presentation and research club) and the Energy Net Club, which evaluated the campus for energy inefficiencies.
A well-loved teacher for almost two decades, Beidas is proud of his aviation program which he established from scratch. In his remaining years at the school, he hopes to expand the program to possibly include other forms of transportation and logistics.
He enjoys giving students a “taste of aviation,” he said, because he knows their interest will be piqued.
“Kids work really hard when they are interested,” Beidas said. “If they know what comes after high school, they work harder in high school to try to get it right.”
Common Roots Initiative will also award a $1,000 scholarship to a student at Proviso East to help pay tuition at a college, community college or training school. The first student scholarship was awarded to Konstantin Kuksenko, but he ultimately declined the scholarship to pursue missionary work. As such, that scholarship money is helping at least 10 students at PEHS pursue their academic goals through PEHS college-oriented programs and incentives.
The deadline for the student scholarship is Jan. 21. See the website common-roots.org.