Space Exploration Educator Crew

We look for teachers who are passionate about integrating STEM into their curricula and communities. These are the educators who want to grow and are willing to go the extra mile to make learning meaningful for their students.
-Kaci Heins; Education Manager Space Center Houston

Educators from around the country are collaborating to prepare students for 21st century science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers through Space Center Houston’s inaugural Space Exploration Educator Crew.

Space Center Houston launched the program in 2017 to help meet a nationwide need to prepare students for STEM careers and an equal need for extraordinary teacher leaders to inspire students. The crew aims to empower teachers to build leadership competencies by creating innovative STEM programs for their students, schools and communities.

The group of 35 kindergarten through 12th-grade educators were awarded scholarships to attend Space Center Houston’s annual Space Exploration Educators Conference (SEEC) in 2017.

At the conference, the educators were tasked with performing outreach to other educators in their schools, districts, states or regions for one year. When the year ends, the educators will return to SEEC in 2018 to share the results of their education expeditions.

Through the program, teachers have access to unique professional development opportunities including the ability to collaborate with their regional teams and collaborate virtually with national educators to enhance and expand outreach.

The program structure was inspired by the International Space Station “Year in Space” mission and modeled after the cross-cultural collaboration among space station crews.

The Space Exploration Educator Crew was made possible by a generous grant from The Boeing Company.

Crew news and initiatives

2017 crew members

Name: Adlena Jacobs
Title: STEM – Engineering Design and Problem Solving
Location: Mesquite, Texas
School: Mesquite ISD, Mesquite High School

Biography:Jacobs has been a Mesquite ISD educator for nine years. She graduated from North Mesquite High School in 2002 and went to Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) and received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and a master’s degree in college administration. She taught SFA physics laboratory courses for introductory physics 101, where she enjoyed the “light bulb moment” when students started to understand the purpose of their learning. She began teaching 8th grade math in 2008. While Jacobs was there, she started an after-school program called INNOVATION CONNECTION, consisting of inquiry and project-based learning. A student in the program has speech problems. His involvement with the program drew the notice of investors who wanted to invest in his innovative app for the district. Her current teaching assignment is STEM (engineering design and problems solving course). She is excited about her “Year in Space” because her room will be filled with light from the light bulbs she encourages. She is thrilled that she and her students will get to experience this fantastic program.


Name: Alexandra Hill
Title: STEM Teacher
Location: Clinton, Missouri
School: Clinton Middle School

Biography: Last year Hill attended Space Camp for educators and became enamored with space education. She also traveled to China and led professional development workshops focused on sharing strategies with Chinese teachers. These life changing experiences cultivated her knowledge of working in education and creating innovative opportunities for student growth. She is excited about the “Year in Space” because she can’t wait to learn more about space exploration to share with her students and other educators! She tries to make learning exciting for her students and can be found roaming the halls of her school in her lab coat or flight suit. Above all else, she wants her students to enjoy the process of learning and leave their classroom more curious about the world in which they live. The topic of space is a vessel that can be applied to infuse STEM education to make content more relevant and engaging. She is honored to teach in her rural community but sometimes her students feel like their world is very small. She hopes to use this experience to show them how big their world can become if they work hard and reach for the stars.


Name: Amanda Blough
Title: 4th grade teacher
Location: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
School: Corpus Christi Catholic School

Biography: Over the past 17 years, Blough had the chance to grow and learn through many educational opportunities. Through all of those years, she experienced many things that affected the way she teaches. Two of her top achievements are taking part in the 2013 Reduced-Gravity Flight Program with two other teachers from our school. She conducted experiments in microgravity that her students had conducted during the school year. Another top achievement was being selected to have students talk to Dr. Kjell Lindgren while he was aboard the International Space Station through an ARISS connection. The student and community involvement in both of these achievements has led to an increased interest of STEM careers and opportunities. She is very excited to be a part of the “Year in Space” to expand the many opportunities for our school and our students. By working with teachers from across the country, it will build a fantastic network of ideas and support. She looks forward to working with exceptional educators with such diverse backgrounds who share the same enthusiasm about STEM as she does.


Name: Amy Fetterhoff
Title: Teacher
Location: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
School: Corpus Christi Catholic School

Biography: With 18 years of teaching, Fetterhoff’s love for science has grown with the help of several NASA encounters. She has partaken in the Reduced-Gravity Flight Program, conducting research in a weightless environment. In addition, Fetterhoff has participated in the ARISS program where her students spoke directly to Astronaut Kjell Lindgren onboard the International Space Station. Fetterhoff also has visited several NASA centers talking to engineers and astronauts about their careers while receiving many behind-the-scene tours. During the summer of 2017, Fetterhoff was chosen to attend the Mickelson ExxonMobil Academy in Jersey City, New Jersey. As a strong advocate for science education in the classroom, Fetterhoff also teaches preservice teachers how to teach science at a local college in her hometown. She believes the more experiences she has, the better she will become at capturing her students and developing them into life-long scientists and engineers.


Name: Amy C. Tinnell
Title: Gifted Resource Specialist
Location: Hoschton, Georgia
School: West Jackson Elementary School

Biography: Amy Tinnell, a native of Tennessee, has been in education for nearly 20 years. She received her Bachelor of Science in education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After teaching several years in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia, Tinnell received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, specializing in integrated teaching through the arts. Recently, Tinnell entered a lesson plan contest sponsored by the Atlanta Science Festival. MTinnell’s 5th grade class was chosen as one of five in the state to radio communicate with an astronaut on the International Space Station. Tinnell feels a great sense of accomplishment when she provides learning experiences for students in her rural community that challenge them to exceed expectations of what small-town kids can do. This is why she is most excited about being selected to join the SEEC program. She is extremely grateful for this opportunity, because through it she will provide one-of-a-kind learning experiences for students in Jackson County. Who knows? Maybe someday she and her future students will radio communicate with one of her former students who was inspired to chase her dreams of space exploration because of this experience!


Name: Ashlie Smith
Title: Physical Science Teacher
Location: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
School: Cranbrook Kingswood Middle School for Girls

Biography: Ashlie Smith instructs physical science at Cranbrook Kingswood Middle School for Girls located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. An early adopter of educational technology and facilitative learning, Smith counts “flipping her classroom” as one of her top achievements. For this effort, she was recognized by TechSmith Corporation as Screencast Champion and awarded the honor of “exemplary teacher” by the Cranbrook Educational Community. For Smith, “flipping her classroom” means more time with students exploring real-world projects and introducing new technology. In 2016, Smith was honored to present a TEDx talk titled “Inspiring the Astronauts of Tomorrow.” She cites inspiring young girls to develop an interest in STEM and consider STEM careers as a driving passion. In addition to teaching, Smith chairs an innovation committee charged with advancing a partnership between Cranbrook and MIT’s Edgerton Center. For Smith, space science plays a significant role in teaching her students to dream big. Inspired teachers develop inspired learners. Smith is thrilled to be selected to participate in the 2017-18 Space Exploration Educator Crew program and looks forward to sharing her new Mars Rover curriculum, expanding her network of like-minded educators and discovering new ways to enhance her curriculum through space science and technology.


Name: Barb Lambert Gruber
Title:Supervisor School Programs
Location: Ashburn, Virginia
School: National Air and Space Museum

Biography: Gruber’s education includes a Ph.D. in education with an emphasis in instructional technology and educational policy from George Mason University, a Master of Education in administration and leadership from The University of Phoenix, a Master of Education in educational technology from San Diego State University, and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry education from California University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Virginia Postgraduate Professional License in chemistry and administration and supervision preK-12. One professional milestone in her career have been becoming the first certified educational technology leader from The Consortium of School Networks (CoSN) in the greater Washington D.C. area. In 2014, she also was named by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) as a “20 to Watch” educational technology leader. Participating in this “Year in Space” is fulfilling her personal learning goals to learn more about space exploration and experiencing firsthand how NASA prepares its astronauts. She also plans to build her professional goals to provide rich authentic hands-on experiences to the students who come to our museum and professionally develop educators to provide more engaging and authentic learning opportunities for their students.


Name: Becky Busby
Title: Gifted Resource Teacher
Location: Hinesville, Georgia
School: Frank Long Elementary

Biography: Becky Busby has dedicated her teaching career to the Liberty County School System for 17 years. In her current position as a gifted resource teacher, she works with kindergarten through fifth grade gifted students. Busby is an avid advocate for students in our school by serving in many different leadership roles. She has trained and certified over 100 teachers to assist with getting their Georgia Gifted Certification. In the classroom, Busby is a powerhouse. She has written grants to obtain STEM resources for her school, facilitated school climate activities for staff and students, and has personally brought the first robotics program into the district. Busby was selected to work with NASA on the “Year in Space” mission to bring NASA resources and STEM education to Liberty County. Through this experience, she plans on implementing professional development courses for teachers and parents to enrich the Liberty County School District. Busby is excited about bringing her experience and enthusiasm into the Space Exploration Educator Crew program as she embarks on the “Year in Space” mission!


Name: Debbie Reynolds
Title: Science and STEM Teacher
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
School:Harrison Middle School – Baldwin-Whitehall School District

Biography: Reynolds has been an educator since 1986. Her experience was middle level science and math until moving to Pittsburgh 10 years ago. She started working for the Baldwin-Whitehall School District, and one of her greatest achievements was building the gifted program at the high school. With the support of her colleagues and administrators, she developed a strong program and extended these experiences to all students. STEM education is very important to her, and it’s been her passion to expose students to as many opportunities as possible while making real-world connections. In her current position as a seventh- and eighth-grade science and STEM teacher, an additional top achievement was taking students to the National SeaPerch Challenge last year. Working with engineers from Bettis, it was their first time to get involved with SeaPerch. To make it all the way to nationals was incredible. She is fortunate to have been selected for the Space Exploration Educator Crew. This “Year in Space” ties in perfectly, as she is the flight director for the school simulator. The opportunity to collaborate and develop STEM-based learning experiences with the other educators is very exciting.


Name: Deb Elliott
Title: 4th Grade math teacher
Location: Carthage, North Carolina
School:Sandhills Farm Life Elementary

Biography: As Elliot moves past the twelve year mark in her teaching career, she reflected on some of her best accomplishments as an educator. The first was being selected as a teacher liaison for the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs. Through the Space Foundation, she learned how to bring STEM to life with my students and collaborate with remarkable teachers. This spring she presented at a teacher workshop at the National Space Symposium on innovative ways to incorporate STEM. Another accomplishment has been creating a science program and implementing it for kindergarten through sixth grade. The program entails hands-on activities and uses literacy as an avenue to learn new science concepts. Looking ahead at her “Year in Space” there is a surplus of opportunities that she’s excited about. Collaboration time with other educators and hearing about what has worked for them is paramount. She is eager to engage students and teachers in space activities that will allow for ample opportunities for both growth and exploration. She hopes to become a better educator and person through the Space Education Exploration Crew program and looks forward to this wonderful opportunity!


Name: Diego Martinez
Title: Science Mastery Specialist
Location: Sheridan, Oregon
School:Delphian

Biography: Diego Martinez is an educator from Alamosa, Colorado. He is currently a math and science mentor at Delphian School. During his career, he has developed and implemented individualized curriculum to help a wide range of learners. Some of his top achievements include earning the United Space Alliance Grant, a space astrogation project called Mars in 2020. This cross-curricular project helped him work with other teachers to inspire students to imagine exploring Mars using a unique space curriculum. This project culminated with a summit of Mount Blanca, over 14,000 feet, and breaking a model rocket launch record. He also wrote the TESLA program (Teaching Extraordinary Students Lessons in Aerospace). This program used individualized curriculum and was a key component to winning the 2013 Alan Shepard Award for Space Education Technology. TESLA gives students an introduction to aerospace and advances them through a self-paced mastery course. Diego has worked with over 40 students who have completed the program with a personal glider training session.


Name: Betty Jo Moore
Title: 6th grade Science and ELA teacher
Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
School:Wiley Magnet Middle School

Biography: Betty Jo Moore teaches sixth grade science and ELA at a STEAM magnet middle school. She is a lifelong learner and loves seeking out opportunities for learning and for ideas to bring back to the classroom. She participated in the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, Honeywell Space Academy for Educators, the STEM Guitar Institute (she built an electric guitar), Advanced Space Academy for Educators and NASA LiftOff2016. She is certified to borrow the lunar and meteorite samples from the NASA Archives and is a National Geographic Certified Educator. In 2015, Betty Jo was the inaugural recipient of the Sci-Works Innovation in Science Education Award. In addition, she has received nine grants in the last several years. She is excited about being a part of “Year in Space” because of the networking and learning opportunities and the ability to share with the next generation of astronauts and engineers. Betty Jo serves as robotics coach, Science Olympiad coach and advisor for the programming club. When not in the classroom, she enjoys music and plays the string bass with the Winston-Salem Civic Orchestra and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador. Her hobbies include travel, scrapbooking, hiking, gardening and reading.


Name: Jeff Herold
Title: Transition Coordinator
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
School:Vista Peak School

Biography: Jeff Herold has been teaching since 2000 and has taught everything from kindergarten through community college in Phoenix, Arizona. While not volunteering at local elementary schools at their science nights, he enjoys paragliding, attending professional development and spending time with his family. His favorite student is his seventh-grade son, Skyler. Jeff is the 2015 Arizona Air Force Association Teacher of the Year and 2015 Arizona Challenger Space Center Educator of the Year. Jeff is a member of The Mars Generation Student Space Ambassador Planning Committee and is a new NASA Solar System Ambassador and CASIS Space Station Explorers Ambassador for 2017. He is excited to be a member of the Space Exploration Educator Crew and looks forward to collaborating with other crew members in the upcoming year! You can follow his STEM adventures on Twitter @STEMJeff.


Name: Jessica Strauss
Title: 3rd grade gifted math/science teacher
Location: Mabry Elementary
School:Hillcrest Middle School

Biography: As an educator, it is Strauss’ duty to show students that learning is a lifelong endeavor. She does this by always applying for new opportunities and taking advantage of the multitude of resources available to educators. This allows her to learn and apply new methods and activities that fit the needs of her students. She participated in the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy as well as MEMTA (Mickelson Exxon Mobil Teachers Academy). Her most exciting opportunity was working with SSEP-Student Spaceflight Experiment Program. She worked with fifth-grade students to propose an experiment to be done on the International Space Station. They worked with college professors, Skyped with NASA and connected with the community to prepare the experiment. Strauss learned so much alongside her students and grew a new passion for space exploration. The “Year in Space” is going to push her as a teacher not just with her students but with her professional skill building, planning and training of others. She is most excited to work with the team of passionate teachers from around the country to instill a love of STEM topics and of space that so many of these amazing educators embody.


Name: Jill Gilford
Title: Earth and Space Science Teacher
Location: Monticello, Indiana
School:Twin Lakes High School

Biography: This is Gilford’s 12th year as an Earth and space science teacher at Twin Lakes High School. Three years ago she created a program named the “Science Buddies” that allows honors Earth/space students to partner with a class of first-grade students. Once a month they meet and complete hands-on STEM activities. Originally she used this program as a way to assess students’ knowledge of the Earth science content as they were “teaching” the first-grade students. It turned into much more. Students learn research and laboratory techniques, critical thinking skills, data analysis and collaboration. They learn various “soft skills” such as communication, decision-making, leadership and team work that will help them be successful members of society. They complete monthly activities and two major projects (one per semester), including designing and creating a Rube Goldberg machine to show how chain reactions work and launching a weather balloon to near space with a camera and GPS tracker on board. Students send mini experiments to test how various substances react to changes in altitude and temperature. She is grateful to be a part of the Space Exploration Educators Crew and looks forward to gaining new lessons that will ignite her students’ passion for astronomy!


Name: Jodie Guillen
Title: 6th and 7th Grade Science Teacher, Mad Scientist Extraordinaire
Location: Moriarty, New Mexico
School:Moriarty Middle School

Biography:Guillen currently teaches science at Moriarty Middle School to the most fantabulous bunch of sixth- and seventh- grade students you’ll ever meet! Throughout the past year, she brought in well over $60,000 in grant money from organizations all over the United States, including a STEM focused after-school program that she designed, complete with a 3D printer, Lego EV3 Robotics, and Sea Perch, as well as a visit from the New Mexico Museum of Space History’s Portable Planetarium and Alien Autopsy! She was one of a handful of educators selected to attend Space Camp this past summer in Huntsville, Alabama, a lifelong dream for Guillen! She looks forward to working with the awesome Space Exploration Educator Crew over the next year in order to ignite the scientists, engineers, and space pioneers of tomorrow, sitting in classrooms around the globe right now, through our “Year in Space” curriculum that will fuse STEAM and beyond into a fantastical display of awesomeness, creating an environment where dreams can take flight… forever altering the course of lives along the way!


Name: Julie Farmer
Title: Fourth grade teacher
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
School:Mooreland Heights Elementary

Biography:Julie Farmer has been teaching for twelve years. She has taught kindergarten, third and fourth grade. She received tenure in 2008 and has been a mentoring teacher for Johnson University for several years. Julie has been a space enthusiast since seeing the movie “Space Camp” as a child. She had the amazing opportunity to go to Space Camp for teachers during the summer of 2016 and came back more excited than ever about both space and teaching. She is thrilled to be a part of the Space Exploration Educator Crew and can’t wait to share her enthusiasm with her students, school and community during her “Year in Space.”


Name: Karen Kingrea
Title: STEM Director; I also teach a 7th & 8th grade Technology & Engineering class
Location: Durham, North Carolina
School:Immaculata Catholic School

Biography:In 2008, Kingrea was thrilled to be part of a two-week institute at NASA Langley Research Center. A lucrative partnership continues as she brings teacher and student groups to the facility, hosts NASA experts at her schools and works various NASA events. In 32 years of teaching, nothing she did made her more excited than the ICS middle school STEM project this year, Project Eagle: Mission to Mars. Student teams create a Martian habitat which includes ten different 12-foot by 5-foot modules, working drones and ROV’s, an astronaut transport vehicle and more. Students blog to document their progress which is shared with families, friends and partners. Students hosted a tour event in April. She is honored to be a part of a diverse and experienced group in the Space Exploration Educator Crew. Exploration and collaboration with these individuals and various NASA experts over the next year is truly a dream come true.


Name: Katie Marie
Title: Westfield Intermediate School
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
School:Innovation Center Instructor

Biography:Conrad is a proud third-generation Boilermaker. Her grandpa was the first in their family to attend Purdue. In retirement, he became interested in astronomy, and Conrad remembers many lessons and telescope views with him. She is happy to be a Purdue alumnus and sharing this, not only with her family, but with so many astronauts. She is currently in my fourth year of teaching. She has taught third, fourth and fifth grade students. One of her biggest accomplishments as an educator is communicating with Robert Paul Weston, an awesome author, after reading his books, “Zorgamazoo” and “The Creature Department.” Another accomplishment is incorporating art into my classroom through Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). She enjoyed seeing her students thrive with VTS and is thankful for the Indianapolis Museum of Art for their partnership in this experience. She is extremely excited about my “Year in Space” because it combines three of her passions – collaboration with educators, planning a curriculum and space!


Name: Katrina Roddenberry
Title: 8th Grade Science Teacher
Location: Crawfordville, Florida
School:Wakulla Middle School

Biography:Katrina Roddenberry is a fifth-grade teacher at Riversink Elementary in Crawfordville, Florida, where she has taught for nine years and was named 2013-14 Teacher of the Year. She recently obtained a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in teaching science. She was the lead teacher of NASA’s Microgravity Experience in 2013. The Microgravity Experience was a collection of activities that surrounded the concept of microgravity. Students at her school designed and built an experiment that she and four other teachers later tested aboard a reduced gravity aircraft. In 2015, she was the coordinating teacher of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) project. Using amateur radio, students asked an astronaut aboard the ISS about life in space as it orbited over the school. She is excited about the opportunity to participate in the 2017-18 Space Exploration Educator Crew program, as it will enhance her STEM content knowledge, space-related instruction and teaching practices. Above all, she wants students in her region to benefit from her participation in the program. She is passionate about sharing her experiences to help provide meaningful STEM opportunities and learning for all students.


Name: Lauren Parker
Title: 7th and 8th Grade Science Teacher
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
School:Fort Worth Academy

Biography:Parker earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education from Texas Christian University. Currently in her 10th year teaching, she teaches seventh- and eighth-grade science at Fort Worth Academy in Fort Worth, Texas. She has earned many recognitions in her teaching career including being named District Teacher of the Year. She was also selected to present with her students at the NASA/Sally Ride Science GRAIL MoonKam Teacher Expo in Washington, D.C. to share how the mission was incorporated in the classroom. She is a frequent presenter at both local and national conferences. Lauren is looking forward to her “Year in Space” as a member of the Space Exploration Educator Crew because it will provide the opportunity to collaborate with other educators who are also passionate about sharing their love of space and space exploration. She is looking forward to increasing the engagement and enthusiasm with teachers and students at her school and in her community.


Name:Leesa Hubbard
Title: Resource Teacher
Location: Lebanon, Tennessee
School:Southside Elementary

Biography: Leesa Hubbard is a teacher from Wilson County Tennessee, and has been teaching for 32 years. During the 2002-2003 school year, she was awarded the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship, where she worked for a year at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. While there, she had the opportunity to work with the Educator Astronaut Program. Another highlight was the good fortune to be on loan to Sally Ride Science as their Teacher in Residence. Not only did she work for a famous astronaut, but she created and implemented professional development for other teachers surrounding NASA’s GRAIL mission to the Moon. Hubbard has been the recipient of several awards, including the Cheri Brindley Space Educator Award and the Exceptional Public Service Medal from Marshall Space Flight Center. She enjoys using aerospace across the curriculum to motivate students of all ages and abilities.


Name:Lisa Mitchell
Title: 6-7 grade Science Teacher
Location: Palmdale, California
School:David G. Millen Middle School

Biography: Mitchell has been teaching science for six years at David G. Millen Middle School in Palmdale, California. She graduated from CSUN with a degree in biology and earned her single subject teaching credential from Brandman University. She is a science nerd who prefers life science, but has a strong passion for learning about space! Two years ago, she went to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama through Honeywell’s Educators Space Academy program, where she learned exciting and fun hands-on activities that she shared with her students. She is thrilled to join the Space Exploration Educator Crew program this year! Space is a high interest subject for both her and her students. Her students use “alien DNA” as part of a genetics project and plan habitats that astronauts might call home on Mars. At SEEC, she seeks new ways to incorporate space into my current curriculum, including new hands-on activities and real NASA data. Students are enthusiastic to learn about space, so converging space with core science content strengthens their motivation and inspires them to keep learning!


Name:Mary Catherine Vaughn
Title:Teacher, Grade 6 Gifted Science
Location:Lithia, Florida
School:Randall Middle School (Hillsborough County Public Schools)

Biography: Mary Vaughn grew up with eight siblings in Michigan and presently resides near Tampa, Florida where she teaches science to the academically gifted students at Randall Middle School. She attended Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Mary strives to engage students to go into STEM fields. Mary has been teaching for more than twenty years and hopes to continue to inspire students for many more years. She also is actively involved as a science trainer in the district of Hillsborough County, Florida and strives to inspire teachers so that they too will inspire their students. Mary also is the project manager for the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program of which she has lead two teams of fifth grade students sending lettuce seeds and cotton seeds to the space station. During the summers of 2010 and 2008, Mary was awarded fellowships, sponsored by Honeywell employees, to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Mary says this was the best teacher training experience she has ever had along with training around the country with Sally Ride Science. Mary is also a Solar System Educator with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


Name:Maya Ghosh
Title:Middle School Science Teacher
Location:Somerset, New Jersey
School:Thomas Edison Energy Smart Charter School

Biography: Ghosh is a science educator at Thomas Edison Energy Smart Charter School, Somerset, New Jersey. She is blessed with a loving husband and two beautiful boys. Her older son is a sophomore majoring in aerospace and mechanical engineering, and her little one is a first grader. Her educational career began in India before he moved to the United States. Her first job was at Houston Independent School District in Houston, Texas. To support her career, she kept professional learning alive and well. She is currently in the last semester of a master’s degree in science education from Rutgers University. Her students participated in Student Spaceflight experiments program where one of their investigations flew to International Space Station. TEECS students are also contributing to Globe’s El Nino campaign. She is excited to be part of the “Year in Space.” Through this program, she hopes to support teachers and students not only in her school, but also in her community as well. With the knowledge and expertise she gains, she looks forward to driving her team and herself with full confidence in teaching space science.


Name:Michael Wilkinson
Title:Math-Science Specialist
Location:Bronx, New York
School:Fieldston Lower School

Biography: Wilkinson has been a math and science teacher for the past 30 years. In that time, he developed a curricula in math and science for upper elementary and middle school that provides students with the opportunity to engage in the content in authentic ways. His students are mathematicians and scientists engaged in inquiry and investigation. He is a NASA Airborne Sciences Master Teacher and a NASA Earth SySTEM Ambassador. Being part of the Space Exploration Educator Crew is another opportunity to infuse space exploration themes into his curriculum and provide a variety of opportunities for his students. Beyond his own students, this “team” will have an impact at a national level. He is thrilled to be a part of this team and looks forward to the “Year in Space.”


Name:Michelle Mohrweis
Title:STEM teacher
Location:Tucson, Arizona
School:Amphi Middle School

Biography: This year is Mohrweis’ fourth year teaching, and she can’t wait to see what achievements she will reach as she continues on in education. She’s proud of things in her career even though she has not been teaching long. This year she joined a coworker at the school to start a broadcast group. Currently they are doing prerecorded video announcements every couple of weeks, and hope to soon have live student video announcements weekly. She also started a STEM group at her school to encourage students to think scientifically and learn how to be innovators and creators. She looks forward to her “Year in Space” because she knows it will provide her with many opportunities to encourage more STEM learning at her school and in the community. She hopes to use what she learns to strengthen the STEM group and share ideas with other teachers as well.


Name:Nancy Sills

Biography: Sills has lived in Georgia her whole life, teaching various grade levels and in numerous school systems for the past 40 years. She is blessed with one husband, three daughters, two sons-in-law and three grandchildren. Being chosen as a Georgia State Teacher of the Year finalist in 2006 was the beginning of an amazing year of representing teachers from around the state. The University of Rhode Island’s Office of Marine Studies’ ARMADA Project furthered her Earth science experience outside the classroom. She spent ten days on the research vessel Endeavor off the coast of New England searching for fresh water under the ocean floor. The Space Exploration Educator Crew will allow her to use the experiences that she has in being an educator ambassador with New Horizons, MAVEN and other NASA programs to formulate real-life projects that will incorporate space into a year of teaching. Collaborating with NASA scientists and staff along with teachers from around the country will provide a way for students to feel that they are part of the space program and how it affects their daily lives.


Name:Nathan W. Tubbs
Title:6th Grade Science Teacher & Middle School STEAM Coordinator
Location:Brooklyn, New York
School:PS/IS 30 Mary White Ovington

Biography: In 2008, Nathan Tubbs moved from Alabama to Brooklyn, New York and entered the teaching profession through the NYC Teaching Fellows program as a sixth and seventh grade science teacher. Desiring to connect his love for space with teaching, in 2011, he participated in Honeywell Educators at Space Academy, and in July 2016, Nathan led his students to send an experiment to the International Space Station for a six-week stay through a partnership with the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Also an avid comic book fan, Nathan has worked to use graphic novels to enhance his curriculum and to engage under-performing students. In 2012 and 2013, Nathan was invited to share with educators during panel discussions at New York Comic Con. As a student himself, Nathan longed to be an astronaut, but since life’s events took him elsewhere, he devoted himself to preparing the next generation of explorers. He is highly excited to participate in the 2017-18 Space Exploration Educator Crew program so that he may not only connect with other educators and foster his love of space, but also pass along his experiences to the students he seeks to inspire each day.


Name:Phyllis Friello, M.S.
Title:Physics Instructor
Location:Baltimore, Maryland
School:Baltimore School for the Arts

Biography: Phyllis Friello teaches physics at the Baltimore School for the Arts, a public pre-professional arts school in Baltimore, Maryland. A longtime resident of the East Coast, she earned a Bachelor of Science from the George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. and a Master of Science from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Following a long career as a research scientist, she became a teacher for Baltimore City Schools. Her academic achievements have included several fellowships and awards to competitive NASA programs. She is a Honeywell Aerospace Educator, completing Space Academy June 2013 and a Master Educator and Education Ambassador for NASA and the American Institute for Physics. Friello is also a two-time Texas Space Consortium Lift Off participant. In 2015, she was a guest of President Obama at Astronomy Night at the White House.


Name:Renée Gamba
Title:Museum of Natural History Director
Krupowicz Planetarium Outreach Coordinator/Teacher
Location:Rhode Island
School:Gaudet Middle School and Learning Academy

Biography: Renee Gamba is the Director of the Museum of Natural History and Cormack Planetarium in Providence, Rhode Island and Outreach Coordinator/Teacher for the Krupowicz Planetarium at Gaudet School in Middletown, Rhode Island. An exciting educational achievement for her was forging a relationship with Middletown public schools to develop and provide science instruction to students using the planetarium located in Gaudet School. Doing what she loves and having the opportunity to educate and empower students in the sciences and the natural world is her biggest educational achievement. She is extremely excited to participate in the Space Education Expedition Crew Program as it will provide her with professional development and resources to use in creating curriculum. More importantly, it will allow her to be part of a community of educators to develop STEM-based learning experiences to prepare students for the future.


Name:Spencer Kiper
Title:STEM Educator
Location:Bossier City, Louisiana
School:Elm Grove Middle School

Biography: A native to Northwest Louisiana, Spencer Kiper is a STEM educator and advocate from Bossier City, Louisiana. Kiper teaches middle school STEM enrichment to nearly 100 students and serves as an adjunct professor of educational technology at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. His passion for STEM education permeates the Shreveport/Bossier City area, and much of his free time is spent volunteering locally to build a stronger STEM and cyber presence in his region. Kiper is an active volunteer and mentor in Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and was awarded the CAP National Aerospace Educator of the Year Award in 2016. He believes that leadership and advocacy in STEM education must begin at the grassroots level in education, and with this in mind, Kiper is heading into his third full summer as an educator crew trainer for the Space Academy for Educators program at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In his free time, Kiper enjoys travelling, sponsoring after-school activities for his students, scuba diving, and chatting with amazing space friends.


Name:Stacie Pottenger
Title:Third Grade Teacher
Location:Savannah, Georgia
School:Spencer Elementary School

Biography: Stacie Pottenger is a third grade teacher at Spencer Elementary School in Savannah, Georgia. Two of her top achievements are that she recently earned her education specialist degree in leadership from Georgia Southern University and was named her school’s current Teacher of the Year. She is very excited about her upcoming “Year in Space” during the Space Exploration Educator Crew program because she will provide her students, school and community with STEM-based learning experiences that will help prepare students for 21st century STEM careers. Integrating these experiences into her ELA units will help to promote higher order thinking by using space related themes and concepts in order to help increase student excitement about learning. The collaboration and information gathered from her “Year in Space” will provide her class, school and community with an engaging experience where students will create, build and solve real-world problems. This is an amazing opportunity of which she is extremely proud.


Name:Terri Mynatt
Title:Teacher Kindergarten 1st & 2nd grade
Location:Venetie, Alaska
School:John Fredson School – Yukon Flats School District

Biography: Learning and developing knowledge about space for a year with support from an amazing crew all exploring together, Mynatt is ready to build the rocket ship right now! Bringing in-depth knowledge about space seems like walking into a time warp and grabbing onto the fabric of the future. Rarely does one take hold of the opportunity to pull the future toward ourselves. Future is imagined in the present, explored with her students who will create it. They will be living into the very future that was only a whimsical dream of their teacher. Bringing the “Year In Space” to them is pulling a new future toward her students, giving them unlimited possibilities. Mynatt is a fellow of Fund For Teachers, which gave her the opportunity to explore Italy and Switzerland’s educational systems. She was selected as a “The Arctic in the Classroom” teacher with ARCUS and became a GLOBE certified teacher. In both those programs, her students are given the opportunity to work with researchers. She found that she does not need to know all the information in the universe to teach science. What she needs is scientists that work with her as she works with her students.


Name:Valeria Rodriguez
Title:Middle School Science Teacher
Location:Miami, Florida
School:Gulliver Academy

Biography: Rodriguez is a University of Florida graduate, bilingual children’s book author and illustrator, instructional designer and a passionate educator who’s excited about infusing the classroom with creativity, technology, science and good vibes. She began teaching while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer (Sustainable Agriculture Sector) in Panama. Teaching at a school where first- through eighth-grade students grade were in one class with latrine restrooms and a chair-propped chalkboard was humbling and inspiring. She learned there that the most sustainable way to affect change in the world was through education. She continued to work in education, transitioning to science classrooms, incorporating my background in biology and sustainability. She developed an interest in space science in the last two years. Her students worked with NASA scientist Gioia Massa and Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens on the “Growing Beyong Earth” challenge. They grow plants indoors under LED lights and recommend potential candidates to be grown on the International Space Station and eventually on Mars. She experienced the OSIRIS-REx Launch in September, which rocketed my interest in space exploration to another dimension. She looks forward to getting to know the crew members and picking up tools to create out-of-this-universe learning experiences for students.