USAFSAM instructors shine at annual competition

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Instructors at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine are not afraid of a little friendly competition. The school, part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, recently held its third annual SAM-Tastic instructional excellence competition.

“The goal is to emphasize and recognize the instructional qualities of USAFSAM Instructors while creating a spirited and healthy competition among our education and training departments,” said John Duren, SAM-Tastic program manager.

All education and training departments are eligible to submit one three-person team of instructors to present a 50-minute lecture on an assigned topic, which is revealed to the teams two days prior to the competition.

“SAM-Tastic is intended to test the teams’ ability to work together in developing a lesson in a short time period,” Duren explained. “It's also a chance to develop as instructors. We practice, we innovate, we learn from each other. ”

This year, two teams -- one from the Occupational and Environmental Health Department, and one from the Public Health and Preventive Medicine Department -- lectured on the topic of the past, present and future of education.

“We are on track for modernizing our training platforms. We have a learning management system in place that we were just talking about this time last year, which is going to revolutionize the way we deliver content to our Airmen here at USAFSAM,” explained USAFSAM Dean Col. Penelope Gorsuch at the competition's opening ceremony. “But this might require a different approach from our instructors. So when we were thinking about a good theme for this year’s SAM-Tastic, we naturally settled on the evolution of education. What did training look like in the past, what does it look like now, and what might it look like moving forward?”

A three-member panel of judges -- Tim Sakulich, 711 HPW vice director; Col. Elena Oberg, 88th Air Base Wing vice commander; and Tammy Bugher, Director of Instructional Systems at the Air Force Institute of Technology School of Systems and Logistics -- was brought in to evaluate the competition. Although the judges agreed that both teams delivered excellent lectures, the Occupational and Environmental Health Department was declared the winner.

“It’s not often that we, in senior leadership roles, get to see you doing your jobs first-hand and immerse in that fully,” Sakulich said to the participants. “To see the enthusiasm, professionalism and creativity you apply and how you use the tools of the trade was truly a privilege, and it allows us to be better advocates for you. Everything we do in the Wing is about helping Airmen fly, fight and win, and the knowledge that transitions to the Air Force as a result of your work is a part of that.”