M.S., Dartmouth College
Teacher: Introduction to Engineering; Aerospace Engineering; Engineering Design and Development
Mentor: Club Forge
Coach: Varsity Cross County; Varsity Track & Field
Beth Larson grew up in Palm Harbor, Florida, and graduated from Palm Harbor University High School summa cum laude in 2005. From the time she was in high school, Beth had it in her mind to become a high school teacher and coach.
“My cross country coach was also my math teacher, and I thought he had the best job in the world,” Beth shared.
When it came time to enroll in college, however, Beth’s parents pushed her to choose a major in the sciences; if she wanted to teach, she could always go back to education, but they urged her to develop her hard skills. With that in mind, she attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She started out as a meteorology major and switched to engineering after she fell in love with the program, its students, and its teachers. She graduated in 2009 with a B.S. in engineering physics and minors in mathematics and meteorology.
Simultaneously, Beth was chasing an elite running career. She began running during middle school, and ran competitive track through high school and college. She was captain of both the cross-country and track teams at Embry-Riddle, where she earned eight All-Americans and two National Champions. She had plans to earn her Masters from Embry-Riddle while training for the USA Nationals. However, when a professor left and there was not time to join someone else’s research team at Embry-Riddle, she took a position at the Department of Space at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, in Maryland, to research the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.
“It was 2009 and the economy was suffering,” explained Beth. “While I had dreams of staying at Embry-Riddle, I knew the job at Hopkins was not something I could turn down.”
Beth then continued her research at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where she earned a M.S. in engineering science in 2012. While at Dartmouth, she served as a volunteer coach under Mark Coogan for the women’s cross country and track team, and trained with them for three years, including Olympians Abbey D'Agostino and Alexi Pappas. In January of 2013 Beth began her teaching career as a part-time physics instructor at Castleton State College, in Vermont.
“At that point, I was really enjoying teaching and my training began to slip away,” she said. “I could have kept training and I thought it would be a great job to become a college coach, but I had also just earned my Masters and wanted to use it.”
Around that same time, Beth’s former office-mate at Dartmouth shared his own experience at a boarding school, Thacher, in California. He told her about teaching, and coaching, and living in the dorms with the students. It seemed like a great solution to Beth’s questions about where to take her career.
“In August of 2013, I joined the faculty of Fountain Valley School of Colorado as science teacher, head track and field coach, and assistant fitness coach. During my time there, I helped the track and field team grow to record numbers with top state finishers and an athlete accomplishing the fastest 1600-meter time in the state of Colorado. I also assisted with redesigning the science curriculum and introduced engineering into their program.”
Loving the boarding school environment but missing the New England weather she had come to love so much, Beth moved back east to join the faculty of Avon Old Farms School. She assisted with developing the engineering and robotics program while serving the many important roles in the dorm and as a coach for cross country and track and field.
“I believe it’s important to challenge our boys academically, physically, and mentally while they discover themselves in pursuing to become a man of Avon who embraces integrity, inclusion, justice, and service,” Beth said.
In the classroom, Beth focuses her lessons on hands-on, experiential teaching that ranges from flying planes and shooting off rockets to building robotic miniature space rovers. First, she teaches the process of becoming a problem solver, and then teaches the techniques and skills required to come up with a complex technical solution.
“It can be a struggle for teenagers to learn to overcome their failures, because failure is always a part of the process in engineering,” she said. “But, when they persevere and finally see their solution operate correctly for the first time, it’s incredibly rewarding. Each time a student tells me that he’s going to pursue engineering in college, I feel like I’ve made a real difference.”
Beth lives on campus with her husband, Eric, and their dog, Piper.
- Was married on Avon Old Farms’s vista in the summer of 2019
- In 2015, she was inducted into Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s athletic hall of fame.
- She has taken up gardening at Avon, growing large pumpkins to decorate The Coop area.