WCSD teacher chosen for NASA’s AAA Program

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 9:43 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - North Valleys High School science teacher, Jim Young, is over the moon. He’s one of the select few chosen for this year’s NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Program. It’s an elite group of just 24 teachers selected nationwide.

“I almost couldn’t believe it and I started wondering what it’s actually going to be like and I’m sure the experience is going to be ten times better than what I could even imagine,” said Young.

The program involves a week-long STEM Immersion experience at a NASA research facility and then an airborne astronomy flight from Southern California.

“SOFIA Airborne Observatory does infrared astronomy,” said Young. “The reason they have it on an airplane is they get above the water vapor in the atmosphere that blocks out a lot of the infrared light coming in from astronomical sources.”

He’ll receive training in astrophysics and planetary science. It’s a stellar opportunity for this veteran teacher and self-professed “nerd.”

“I mean, I’m a science teacher, I’m a math teacher,” laughed Young. “I love Marvel and DC and Star Wars, so I’m about as nerdy as they get.”

But it’s his passion and personality that make him a standout with his students.

“Just makes him real cool and most people like him,” said Quincy Williams, a tenth grade physical science student.

“He’s more personal,” echoed fellow student Zavior Santiago. “He doesn’t treat us all like we’re just students. He taps into us personally.”

Young admitted he is already starstruck-- thinking about how he’ll be working with and learning from astronomers and mission directors. And he’s looking forward to bringing that experience back to the classroom.

“I wish I could take all my students on the trip with me,” he said. “That would really get them excited about science and mathematics. But my hope is to bring that excitement back here to the classroom.”

Young said the week-long part of the program takes place this summer, with the flight happening in January. He can’t wait.

“I’ve taught astronomy, I’ve majored in astronomy, and now I get to do some astronomy,” he said.

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