Kelley Schneider calls herself a lifelong learner and encourages her Kyrene Monte Vista Elementary students to be the same.
She hopes that with her recent experience at the Space Academy, where she did similar things to an astronaut in training, will provide her with material to inspire excitement about science in her students.
Schneider was chosen as one of 220 educators out of more than 1,000 who applied from around the world to attend the academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
During her time there, she participated in simulations of several NASA missions, learned to extract DNA from strawberries and heard from leading space figureheads over the course of a two-week period.
"It was a very special experience," Schneider said. "I have always been intrigued by space and this was eye-opening."
In one of the simulations, she played mission specialist and put on her white space suit and was thrust into a zero-gravity environment.
Her goal: To repair the International Space Station.
"It was very realistic," Schneider said. "You're bouncing around in zero-gravity trying to screw rods into these nodes to repair the ISS, all the while they are throwing anomalies at you and the team you are communicating with."
The goal of the camp was to further the teacher's passion for science and education.
Participants listened to speeches by former astronauts Don Thomas, "Rocket Boy" Homer Hickam and former director of the U.S. Space and Rocket camp, Ed Buckbee, who talked about the importance of bringing excitement to science in the classroom.
They also talked about looking forward to a positive future despite the end of the space shuttle missions.
"It was an emotional time because it was just before Atlantis launched for the last time," Schneider said. "But they talked about how we are teaching the generation of students who will take the next great step in human exploration. We could be teaching the first student who will step foot on Mars and that really made an impact on me."
Schneider applied on the last day for the program, which is sponsored by Honeywell. She said she was one of only a select few to be chosen the first time she applied.
For the application, she wrote an essay about what she liked about science and explained her love of adventure, all part of her goal to be a lifelong learner.
"You have to learn throughout your life," Schneider said. "I want my kids to be the same way so I tell them what I do and how I continue my learning and hope they do the same."
You can bet that her time at the Space Academy will be an experience she won't soon forget.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or firstname.lastname@example.org