Two WCSD teachers selected for NASA program

Two Washoe County School District teachers are among 28 teachers nationwide selected to participate in NASA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) program.

This is a professional development opportunity for high school science teachers designed to improve science teaching and learning, and increase student engagement in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) studies.

Mischelle Smith, who teaches chemistry and physical science at Wooster High School, and Aaron Shoolroy, who teaches physics at Reno High School, have been selected for the program at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California.

"Holy cow, I get to go! You know, it's a world I haven't really been able to tap into, you know, big observatories I haven't been able to go to, so I'm just really excited," Smith says.

They will receive training in astrophysics and planetary science, and will participate in a research flight on board NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

The teachers chosen for the program represent eight states, and will be provided with lessons to present to their students at school.

"It's always nice to get a pat on the back for what you do, but at the end of the day, it's about the kids and to get acknowledged for that you hope it carries forward, and they get a little more bang for their buck, I guess," Smith says.

"I am very excited to have been chosen to participate in the AAA program," Shoolroy says. "I think that it is a fantastic opportunity to be a part of the practice of real-world science. I have long been a huge space nerd and the chance to actually experience what it is like to be a NASA scientist is really a dream come true. I can't wait to share what I learn with my students and my colleagues next year."