ATEC Names Recipients of Student, Educator of Year Awards

An instructor from Purdue University and a student from Pittsburg Institute of Technology have been named the 2024 recipients of ATEC's most prestigious awards. The annual awards are made possible through a partnership with the Northrop Rice Foundation,, and Snap-on, who provide cash prizes and awards to recipients.

Purdue educator Mark Thom was named the Ivan D. Livi Aviation Maintenance Educator of the Year Award for 2024, while Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) Student Forrest Zischkau was named the James Rardon Aviation Maintenance Technician Student of the Year for 2024.

Zischkau was cited for academic achievement, involvement in activities that showcase leadership, and other contributions to the school and community. 

His nominator and PIA President and CEO Suzanne Markle said Forest has consistently demonstrated exceptional academic ability, positioning himself at the top of his class. As the valedictorian of the Aviation Electronic Technology Program, he achieved this honor with a perfect attendance record, showcasing his dedication and commitment to his studies.

"Earning the prestigious NCATT certification and FCC GROL Operator license further underscored his expertise in the field," said Markle. "His pursuit of continuous education is marked by his decision to obtain an additional associate degree and an Airframe and Powerplant license. He maintains his stellar academic record with perfect grades and attendance, showcasing his unwavering commitment to excellence."

Pictured from left to right, Ryan Goertzen, President, Choose Aerospace, Forest Zischkau, Award Recipient, Suzanne Markle, PIA President and CEO, Laurie Elliott, Partnership Manager, JSfirm, and John Gamble, Education Partnerships Manager, Snap-on Tools.

Nominations for educator of the year come from across the country to recognize AMT instructors who, either through a single event or over the span of a career, have a direct impact on aviation maintenance students. 

Mark Thom is an Associate Professor at the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology at Purdue University. Thom teaches courses in airframe systems in the Aeronautical Engineering Technology program. He is also a long-time member of the ATEC Journal editorial board.

Thom is the current director of the National Test Facility for Fuels and Propulsion, a research and testing tacitly created by Congressional Appropriation. This center involves development research regarding alternative and future aviation fuels. Thom has collaborated on work regarding the technical skills required for aerospace engineers in the 21st century and has worked on methods for re-integrating hands-on skills into engineering and engineering technology education. He has researched applied skills in engineering, and he currently serves on the Department's ABET accreditation working group, which has pioneered the use of the FAA Part 147 requirements in an engineering technology curriculum.

"Professor Thom has achieved an extremely high level of impact on hundreds of A&Ps and many more students of our Aviation Maintenance program each year for over 30 years," said colleague Mary E. Johnson, Ph.D. "He is a role model for aspiring maintenance professionals."

Congratulations to this year's award winners.