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Educator Spotlight

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Jason Dietrich

PA teacher pursues Adams State master's degree through distance learning

Jason Dietrich is combining his love of teaching, science, and his fascination with NASA into a new career. Dietrich is pursuing his master's degree through Adams State University's graduate distance program. He enrolled in the fall of 2022 to the Adams State Teacher Education Department Master of Arts in Education Curriculum and Instruction with Endeavor STEM Leadership Certificate, graduation planned for December 2024.

Jason has recently been selected as Camp Director of the Space Adventure Camp, at the Virginia Space Flight Academy (VASFA) at Wallops Island, Virginia. VASFA is a non-profit organization (and partner of NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility) on a mission to expand access to innovative learning experiences, career pathways, and mentorship to advance equity and increase interest in STEM careers. Space Adventure Camp allows students to design, build and launch model rockets, design robots for specific tasks, safely operate drones, and experience team-building engineering challenges. Campers also have the opportunity to go behind the scenes at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility to experience first-hand what it would be like to work in the aerospace industry. Through its year-round STEM Academy program, VASFA creates opportunities and learning experiences that empower students from all backgrounds to see themselves as future STEM leaders, leading to diverse workforce representation. "I am very excited about the Coding 4 Mars program and the opportunity for students to meet STEM professionals from all different fields. I was impressed that VASFA designs and tailors instruction to meet the learner where they are." Jason is also collaborating with the VASFA team in integrating a Game-Learning Module (Game On!) into the STEM Academy curriculum. "From day one, I was impressed by the exceptionally high quality and scope of education offered by VASFA, and their goal to open access through partnerships to spaces, places, resources, and people that inspire STEM learning and career paths to initiate change on a larger scale. Our educational philosophies are a perfect match, and I am proud and honored to be a member of the incredible VASFA team."

The Adams State program has provided Dietrich with access to unique opportunities and resources he didn't realize were possible. "The classroom forums, ASU and NASA, have afforded me the ability to communicate with experienced, like-minded individuals and have provided me with valuable feedback and helped me to grow as a teacher. All faculty members are caring, experienced professionals who are always available and helpful. My advisor is excellent and has provided me with insight and valuable advice regarding scheduling and class requirements." I have enjoyed the prompt communication from my instructors and felt like each course contributed to my betterment as a teacher and STEM educator.

The flexibility of the Adams State online master's program works well with Dietrich's schedule. He particularly appreciates the well-organized classes and user-friendly formats. The NASA classes with the call-in classroom meetings are easy to schedule and allow him to focus on the content being presented. The courses through Adams State's online program have also increased Dietrich's awareness of diversity in the classroom. "The courses through Adams State have helped me understand the needs of my students and best practices in the classroom and allowed me to enhance my teaching philosophy and style. I am seeking opportunities to ensure all students have the ability to master the life-changing skills offered by a STEM education. As an educator, I have helped to bridge the gap to increase participation in STEM career pathways. This approach allows a STEM-literate citizenry that is prepared for innovation, scientific discoveries, and technologies of the future, to provide a solid foundation for STEM literacy.

Jason believes it is imperative to instill the importance of critical thinking, problem-solving, and the exchange of ideas. He has found no better way to accomplish these goals than through STEM educational activities. "I firmly believe that in our technology-based society, it will be imperative for all citizens to possess the abilities to analyze and integrate large amounts of information to formulate solutions to real-world problems. It is my intention to increase inclusion, equity, and diversity in STEM that not only benefits students, but our society as a whole. This holistic approach allows a STEM-literate citizenry that is prepared for innovation, scientific discoveries, and technologies of the future, to provide a solid foundation for STEM literacy.

"The next best thing to obtaining knowledge, is to pass it on - as a VASFA team member, I will be afforded a unique and most valuable opportunity to accomplish this goal!"

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Michelle Ming

Director of Project Lead the Way, Engineering at Archbishop High School (ACHS), Washington, D.C.

Endeavor Alumni (2020), Mrs. Michelle Ming, is putting her love of teaching and her Endeavor education in the forefront of her career. She recently published her first book, Love Teaching, through Pendium Publishing. The book speaks to the impact that a student suicide had on her teaching style and how the tragic event led her to develop a deep compassion for students' lives as well as a renewed dedication to their educational journey, especially their STEM journey.

This renewed dedication led Mrs. Ming to seek out professional development programs to hone her craft of teaching STEM. She studied object-oriented programming and pursued a job in private industry to answer the questions that she heard frequently from her math students, "What are we ever going to use this for?"

Mrs. Ming took some time away from the classroom to work in a STEM career. She was hired as a Software Test Analyst by a NASA government contractor to work on a shuttle software project (SPIFRS) at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, MD. After learning that NASA Communication (NASCOM) data travels from the Space Shuttle to computers on Earth using bits and bytes which can be referred to as blocks of data or NASCOM blocks, she realized that what she was learning was not only about spaceflight but mathematics and so much more that applied to her classroom teaching. Energized to return to the classroom and teach in a new way that connected what she learned at NASA, she looked for professional development that brought together NASA and STEM. She found the Endeavor STEM Teacher Certificate Project.

As a classroom teacher in Washington D.C., Mrs. Ming is now the Director of Project Lead the Way, Engineering at Archbishop High School (ACHS). She is the proud recipient of two teacher awards for the 2021-2022 school year: the PLTW Outstanding Educator of the Year and the ACHS Veteran Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Ming believes that these honors are due, in part, to the teacher training received from the Endeavor STEM Teaching Certificate Project. Her final experience to earn the Leadership Certificate in STEM Education was the Practicum in STEM Leadership where she created a professional development experience for teachers in her school focused on introducing the 5E Lesson planning format to teachers and showing them how to create exciting and engaging lesson plans utilizing NASA and online STEM resources. She plans to continue working to share her knowledge of STEM Education with educators through educational mentorship and professional development experiences.

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Emily Lenhardt

Middle School Science
Salt Lake City, Utah

Endeavor Alumni (2020), Emily Lehnardt, is putting her Endeavor education directly to work. She was recently commissioned by the First the Seed Foundation to develop curriculum for high schools across the United States. Ms. Lehnardt utilized resources and skills she learned from her Endeavor coursework, specifically the course The E in STEM: Meaningful Content for Engineering, to design a lesson integrating an engineering design challenge using tomato seeds that could eventually be flown aboard the International Space Station. The lesson integrates across subject areas to engage students and uses the NASA Engineering Design Process and PBS Design Squad resources to engage students in interesting phenomena.

Ms. Lenhart reports that working with the First Seed Foundation was a new and exciting experience. She aspires to continue honing her skills in curriculum development, utilizing what she learned in all her coursework in the Endeavor STEM Teaching Certificate Project. She credits her ability to create this learning experience to her education in the Endeavor program. In addition to the engineering course, Ms. Lenhart completed a variety of courses including Methods of STEM Education (the foundation course for the program) and Math Connections to STEM Education. Her final experience to earn the Leadership Certificate in STEM Education was the Practicum in STEM Leadership where she created a professional development experience for teachers in her school focused on engineering design and utilizing NASA resources in the classroom.

Ms. Lenhardt is an upper middle school science educator in Salt Lake City, Utah. She now considers herself a teacher leader and plans to continue working to share her knowledge of STEM Education with educators through professional development experiences and her work in curriculum design.

photos of Shonda Baggette in the classroom

Shonda Baggette

Elementary Teacher

In 2016 elementary educator, Shonda Baggette began looking for professional development in STEM education. She reports being discouraged by most of what she found because it was targeted towards secondary teachers instead of elementary teachers. She explains, "I had heard of STEM and was eager to integrate STEM into my teaching, but I didn't know the process of teaching STEM or how important it was until I started researching." Eventually, she came upon an opportunity to participate in the Endeavor STEM Teaching Certificate Project. Shonda decided to pursue a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in STEM education through the program. She graduated in May of 2019.

Shonda completed a series of courses including Methods of STEM Education, The E in STEM: Meaningful Content for Engineering, Math Connections to STEM Education, The Arts in STEM: Advancing Meaningful Content, and STEM Leadership Seminar. She excited reports that each course encouraged collaboration among fellow educators, allowing growth in STEM practices and understanding. "Through this experience, I enhanced my professional growth by collaborating with educators and instructors from across the country in an online collaborative space to learn how to integrate STEM into my teaching. This opportunity deepened my knowledge by learning the theory and practice of STEM. I learned the connections between the Common Core and Next Generation Science standards and how to integrate them into my lessons. Each week I learned and added a new skill to implement using the 5E lesson plan process. Using our science units, I learned to integrate the Engineering Design Process to make lessons more relevant to students. I found that this had a positive impact on student engagement & understanding of the science concepts taught."

In the final semester of her joint Master's degree and STEM Certificate program, Shonda took STEM Leadership Seminar where course instructors supported her to develop a professional development experience for her peers. She says, "My professional development was composed of integrating STEM content and pedagogy, including a culturally relevant component to share with others in my school and beyond. Usually, this would have been out of my comfort zone. But I developed such a passion for STEM and saw the impact that it had on students, that I was excited to share my knowledge with colleagues." Shonda continues to lead professional development sessions on integrating STEM content and pedagogy at her school and was recently asked to lead her school in becoming STEM certified. "It is because of my experience in the Endeavor program that I have a passion and a purpose for teaching again."

photos of Leah Weiner in the classroom

Leah Weiner

4th grade Elementary Teacher
Brooklyn, NY

How does engineering design fit into the social studies curriculum?  I did not think it did until  The E in STEM: Meaningful Content for Engineering course. I learned to think 'outside the box' and incorporate the Engineering Design Process in my 4th grade classroom.  In a unit on Native American life, I created a project that assessed my students' knowledge by applying it to a real scenario that included engineering design.

The setting for the project was New York in the 1500s. Students needed to consider Native American lives and the resources they had available to them in order to meet the design need.  The challenge posed was to create a prototype of a sturdy shelter that would protect them from a huge storm that was approaching.  Their constraints were that they could only use natural resources from the environment. The project required the design of a survival plan which indicated the items needed while in the shelter and the roles each member of the tribe would play in getting ready for the storm.

My class worked in groups of 4-5 and followed the Engineering Design Process while recording all of their work in an engineering notebook. The results were extremely versatile and creative.  Some groups discovered the benefits of a triangular shaped shelter while others used sticks, cloth, string and/or clay. They learned that failure is just an opening for future success. Some of the groups were unsuccessful at first but their final shelters were wonderful! All and all, this experience allowed me to evaluate my students' knowledge, increase student engagement, and use the Engineering Design Process in a subject other than science.  Without Endeavor, my students would never have experienced this opportunity!

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Mandy Natalie

Middle School Science
Pine Hill, New Jersey

Where should I begin?? I am just finishing my last two classes towards earning my Master's Degree and I am SAD! I can't believe I am almost finished. Who knew learning could be so much FUN! The knowledge that I have gained from the Endeavor classes has been hands down, the most relevant information I have ever received. Starting with the Methods of STEM Education course all the way to STEM Leadership, each class has given me the skills, knowledge, and resources I need to make my students succeed in science. The teacher 'friends' I have made, the instructors from each of the classes, and the leaders of the program, are connections I know I will always have and who will always want to learn just as I do. It takes a community to raise a child and this community is here to do just that!

Currently I am taking the Exploring Mars: A New Twist on Science class and I must say that I have used every single thing we have learned in class with my students. The information is relevant to what my students are interested in and the assignments that we have completed through the class are 100% geared towards getting me to implement the material in my class. The 'cool' project we recently worked on involved looking at real time images from Mars and determining how the surface formed. Students enjoyed learning about geologic processes that shape the surface of planets, using scale modeling to draw images, characteristics of rocks, as well as designing an underground cavern in which people could live during an asteroid impact. Real life problem solving skills in subject matter that they enjoy… double win!

photos of Cheri Barrera in the classroom

Cheri Barrera

6th and 7th grade Science

As a first year teacher, I am always trying to learn new ways to engage my students and connect the content we are learning to space science. Since beginning the Endeavor program I have integrated several, new, inquiry-based activities that I put together from my online classes. Most recently I had my 6th grade students complete the "Soft Landing" NASA design challenge. They were all completely engaged, and it helped make the content we were learning relevant and meaningful to them. I find design challenges are a great way to integrate engineering while teaching key physical science concepts such as potential and kinetic energy transformations.

photos of Erin Escher in the classroom

Erin Escher

Middle School Science
Rhode Island

The Endeavor STEM Certificate Project has afforded me a new perspective and skill set in STEM Education. As a veteran middle school science practitioner, Endeavor challenged me to enhance and develop my content and pedagogy that will foster more real world connections and inspirations for my students in science. I was able to directly implement theory into practice, which allowed me to evaluate and reflect on student learning during the courses.

The most rewarding experience of the program was conducting STEAM professional development for my school through the Leadership course. The Next Generation Science Standards incorporate new engineering and design processes, which can be daunting to science teachers. I was able to apply my STEM knowledge to design and implement a systemic change in the practice of my colleagues! We are now better prepared to teach those engineering and design content and practices.

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Kristen Deitz

5th grade, Math and Science

I am currently taking my 3rd Endeavor course as part of the online joint Master's Degree program (M.Ed.) with Endeavor and Northeastern State University. The courses give me the knowledge necessary to incorporate topics, that I was uncomfortable with as an adult, into my elementary GATE (gifted and talented education) and STEM classes.

I used the resources from Endeavor's Physical Science in Motion class to build a unit centered on rockets! Students learned how important physics concepts are in science and the 'real world' and that physics isn't a course for just the "smart" kids. They understand velocity, trajectory, force, motion and Newton's Laws. I have never received so many e-mails from parents wanting to know what I was teaching.

I am truly grateful for the knowledge I am gaining from the Endeavor courses. I have been able to facilitate many small sessions for my colleagues on incorporating STEM in the classroom, and I am currently pushing-in to classes, K-5, working with teachers and students on the proper ways to incorporate inquiry-based activities into the classroom curriculum.

photos of Aletha Cherry in the classroom

Aletha Cherry

4th Grade Teacher

I am excited to return to my classroom this year as a 4th Grade and Robotics "Bee-Bot" teacher, with many new and specific ideas for facilitating inquiry through integrated STEM activities. Endeavor courses are helping me to better understand the structure of an inquiry-based classroom and how to best assess my students using inquiry practices.

When I started the Endeavor program, I was a teacher who felt comfortable with inquiry as long as I was "in charge". Now I feel equipped with tools and strategies that will allow my students to think comprehensively. My students will be assessed this Spring with the new Georgia Milestones based on Common Core State Standards. It is essential that I give my students opportunities to examine problems and give open-ended explanations, to prepare them for upcoming testing and most importantly, for developing independent problem solving skills. I can't wait to tie the STEM knowledge I've gained into our existing IB (International Baccalaureate) units!

photos of Janet Wiener in the classroom

Janet Wiener

Middle School Science Teacher
Monmouth Junction, New Jersey

NASA Endeavor courses have supported fundamentals of inquiry and emphasized formative assessment, both of which are current in STEM Education. The information I've learned in the Endeavor courses has helped me design problem-based lessons across the physics, ecology, and biology curricula. I developed Mini Medical School with the idea of inspiring future doctors by engaging them in exciting hands-on medical dissections. Now Mini Med program includes dissections and real-world scenarios where students diagnose diseases and propose potential cures. I am currently writing another STEM course entitled Biomedical Engineering.

In these photos students are being shown how to dissect a cow's eyes for the summer program called STEM - Mini Medical Mysteries. I am also conferring with colleagues on physics lesson plans using NASA resources.

photos of Antonio Fuda in the classroom

Antonio Fuda

Middle School Science Teacher
North Bergen, New Jersey

As a middle school science teacher in an urban school district, the NASA Endeavor Program provides me with all of the current trends in science and STEM education. As a result I feel a step ahead of "the pack" when implementing lessons aligned to Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards. Endeavor courses provide me with the authentic content and pedagogy necessary to incorporate cross-disciplinary lessons and projects. Endeavor is solely responsible for some of the most engaging and enjoyable lessons that I have created, from allowing my middle school students to delve into epidemiology and neuroscience by tracking a 'zombie virus', to giving them the freedom to learn from their mistakes by following NASA's Engineering Design Process.

NASA resources are also great for incorporating literacy into science, an important focus of today's education reform. These assets can be easily manipulated to fit any K-12 classroom. I feel extremely prepared going into the next era of science education after being exposed to the Endeavor program with its interactive courses and experienced instructors.

photos of Christy Smith-McCullough in the classroom

Christy Smith-McCullough

6th Grade Science Teacher
Beaufort, South Carolina

Christy Smith-McCullough brought content and resources from the Spring 2014 Endeavor course Lessons from the Ocean, directly to her students in South Carolina. In May, upon completing the course, Christy's class participated in a webinar where they were able to interact with lead professor, Dr. Mike Heithaus, of the School of the Environment, Arts, and Society at Florida International University. Excited about Marine Science, students continued their exploration by reading the Ocean Literacy Principles and giving feedback to Dr. Meghan Marrero, instructor for NASA Endeavor. Students were able to brainstorm ways to integrate ocean literacy in a typical science classroom from kindergarten to high school. The students loved the experience and learned ocean literacy principles that will guide them for life.

photos of Kelly Salmons in the classroom

Kelly Salmons

Science Teacher
Naples, Florida

Kelly Salmons, the 7th and 8th grade science teacher for The Village School in Naples, Florida, shares her knowledge from the NASA Endeavor STEM program. She's helping to launch the STEAM (STEM with Arts) philosophy from Junior-K to 8th grade. Here she leads the staff in developing curriculum that integrates core content with engineering, technology and real-world data. Kelly helps them create developmentally appropriate integrated units with higher level thinking, problem solving and creativity for the classrooms. In her classes, students decipher data, build models and collaborate on global issues. They discover that science can open their eyes to possibilities and the world around them! Kelly will become the STEAM Coordinator when the school opens the high school grades.

photos of Peter Smith in the classroom

Peter Smith

As a middle school math teacher at an independent school, Endeavor has been extremely helpful as my school is going through a period of change. As a school we are transitioning to a more project-based approach with longer teaching blocks and more collaboration between disciplines. This STEM program has given me the knowledge and resources to redesign my class to meet the needs of my students and our shift in approach to engaging students more actively and effectively. Specifically, the Space Math resources at NASA are great! They tie in directly with the curriculum and I can't wait to use them in my classes next year. I feel much more prepared going into the new school year in the fall after going through the Endeavor program.

This material is based upon work supported by NASA under grant or cooperative agreement award number NNX08BA63A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
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