Teacher Success Stories

Our teachers have done some amazing things with the NASA support we provide! The following anecdotes represent just a few of the teachers we have supported over the years. To submit your own Teacher Success Story to be featured here, please email Eric Day at day@spacegrant.org.

Jacqueline Fernandez-Romero
Jacqueline Fernandez-Romero, a science teacher and STEM Coordinator at Latin American Youth Center Academy Public Charter School who we supported at Space Camp in 2012 and 2014, incorporated her Space Camp lessons into her classroom using such resources as NASA 360 to engage students, and developed an activity where her students built their own version of a Mars Rover. She developed a new curriculum and built a teaching unit plan for a high school course in space science. Ms. Fernandez-Romero was admitted into the NASA LEARN program at NASA LaRC. In May 2013, five of the teachers were invited to the Washington Space Business Roundtable’s Luncheon on STEM Education to share their accomplishments with professionals in the space industry.  In March 2015, she received the National Science Teachers Association Distinguished Service to Science Award.  She was appointed as a USSRC Space Camp Ambassador and was selected by NASA for the 2015 SOFIA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Program.  She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in STEM Education.

Anthonette Pena
We supported a middle school science teacher, Anthonette Pena, to carry out Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 1 to the International Space Station (ISS) activities at Stuart-Hobson Middle School (SHMS), which is 85% minority and Title I classification, where more than half of the students receive free or reduced lunch.  More than 30 teachers and 1,100 students participated in the activities, and two patches and one experiment from SHMS were selected to be flown to the ISS in May 2012.  As a result of these activities, Ms. Pena was invited to attend the 2nd Annual White House Science Fair hosted by President Barack Obama in February 2012, to represent the DC Public Schools (DCPS).  Ms. Pena also got to meet Guest Speaker Bill Nye the Science Guy.  We also supported Ms. Pena when she was invited to attend the launch of the Dragon spacecraft carrying the patches and experiment, from Kennedy Space Center (KSC), where she was interviewed by NASA Television, and met with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden moments before the launch to discuss her students’ experiment.  Ms. Pena was interviewed for articles about this program by The Washington Post, where the article appeared on the front page, and The Washingtonian.

Daisy Rayela
We supported Daisy Rayela, a STEM Coordinator  from Thomas Johnson Middle School, at Space Camp in 2014.  As a result of this program, Ms. Rayela uses most of the strategies and activities she learned at Space Camp.  She is teaching flight and space and uses a lot of NASA resources.  She is teaching other science teachers how to integrate STEM into their classrooms, and made a presentation about her experience in this program at STEM Family Night.  Her classroom became more interactive, and she gives students design challenges using engineering.  She developed and brought seven new STEM activities to her school: STEM Career Day, Engineer in the Classroom, Earth Day Activity, STEM in the Garden, SSEP Mission 8, Seaperch Challenge, and STEM Festival.

Florentia Spires
Florentia Spires, a math teacher at Howard University Middle School of Math and Science and NASA Endeavor Fellow who we supported at Space Camp in 2012, developed a professional development workshop with curricula she acquired from Space Camp for twenty elementary school educators at eight DC elementary feeder schools to Howard University Middle School in order to help the educators incorporate NASA STEM into their curriculums. As a result, Ms. Spires was asked to serve as a Washington, D.C. Space Camp Ambassador for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. She spoke to seventy families about engaging their children in STEM disciplines. Ms. Spires was selected as a 2013-2014 Albert Einstein Fellow; a prestigious award with only twenty-two educators selected nationally each year. She was assigned to work full time at the National Science Foundation.

Mark Tao
We support Mark Tao, a science teacher from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, in Space Camp and Botball activities for his classroom.  In 2013 he was interviewed by the local ABC News television station about his Space Camp activities, and the interview also was posted on the ABC news website.  In February 2016, Mr. Tao was invited to The White House in March 2016 to discuss his STEM outreach activities.

Britni Whitti
We supported Britni Whitti, a STEM Enrichment Teacher from Rose L. Hardy Middle School, at Space Camp in 2014.  As a result of this program, Ms. Whitti incorporated Kerbal Space Program, an online STEM-based teaching tool, into her curriculum.  KSP is an online computer simulation where students build and design rockets, conduct launches, and collect data.  Her students participated in the Team America Rocketry Challenge this year against 700 high school teams across the country. They built rockets after using RocSim to plan and simulate their launches, then went for their qualifying launches. As the ONLY middle school team and one of only two teams from Washington DC, her students placed 104th and missed the cutoff for Nationals by only .75 points (less than 1 foot in altitude).  Her students celebrated World Space Week by designing Mars Habitats in a design competition and Skyped with Astronaut Leroy Chiao.