Press Release

24 Teachers from 13 States to Become NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors

By SpaceRef Editor
March 1, 2022
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The SETI Institute has selected 24 teachers from 13 states as 2022 NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAAs). AAA is a professional development program for science teachers to improve science teaching and enhance student learning and STEM engagement. The AAA program includes teachers in middle schools, high schools, and community colleges. 

AAA teachers receive training in astrophysics and planetary science, including a week-long STEM immersion experience at a NASA astronomy research facility such as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) based in Palmdale, California or the Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. After their training, the AAAs teach a physical science curriculum module created by the SETI Institute that connects curriculum concepts to NASA-enabled research. WestEd education consultants assess the impact of the specialized curriculum module on student STEM engagement. Past controlled-study evaluations of the AAA program have shown statistically significant improvements in student learning & engagement among students whose teachers participated in the program. 

Since 2011, the NASA-funded AAA program has impacted tens of thousands of students through the experiences and training of their teachers. “This powerful STEM program will allow the SETI Institute to continue bringing NASA science into classrooms across the country,” said Dr. Dana Backman, AAA program lead. “These teachers will use their professional development and STEM immersion experiences to convey real-world content to their students that illuminate the value of scientific research and the wide variety of STEM career paths available to them.”

The school districts and organizations participating in the AAA program during 2022 are:

Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Maryland

Canyons School District, Sandy, Utah

Cobb County School District, Marietta, Georgia

Diocese of Raleigh/Cardinal Gibbons High School, Raleigh, North Carolina

Dodge City Community College, Dodge City, Kansas

Fort Zumwalt School District R2, O’Fallon, Missouri

Harmony Public Schools, Houston, Texas

William S. Hart Union High School District, Santa Clarita, California

iLEAD California Charter Schools, Acton, California

Kiowa County School District RE-1, Eads, Colorado

Little Elm Independent School District, Little Elm, Texas

Maker Learning Network, Acton, California

Manteca Unified School District, Manteca, California

Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas

NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Bentonville, Arkansas

Norwood-Norfolk Central School District, Norwood, New York

Ohlone College, Fremont, California

St. Joan of Arc School, Lisle, Illinois

Sylacauga City Schools, Sylacauga, Alabama

Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, Irvine, California

Washoe County School District, Reno, Nevada

Western Nevada College, Carson City, Nevada

The 24 teachers selected as 2022 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors:

Leilani Ancel, Fort Zumwalt East High School, O’Fallon, Missouri

Heather Anderson, Fort Zumwalt West High School, O’Fallon, Missouri

Tanya Anderson, St. Joan of Arc School, Lisle, Illinois

Katherine Auld, NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Bentonville, Arkansas

Teresa Cobble, Lovinggood Middle School, Powder Springs, Georgia

Amy Dennis, Sylacauga High School, Sylacauga, Alabama

Ann Marie Dubick, Campbell Middle School, Smyrna, Georgia

Kerem Ekinci, Harmony Public Schools, Houston, Texas

Sean Ellison, Norwood-Norfolk High School, Norwood, New York

Dawit Hailu, Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Maryland

Thomas Herring, Western Nevada College, Carson City, Nevada

Lucy Howlet, Colorado SKIES Academy, Englewood, Colorado

Raquel Jarabek, Minneapolis Community & Technical College, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Cody Kennedy, Castaic High School, Castaic, California

Dustin Lengning, Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School, Castaic, California

Jennifer Muir, Draper Park Middle School, Draper, Utah

Diane Ripollone, Cardinal Gibbons High School, Raleigh, North Carolina

Sherry Rogers, Dodge City Community College, Dodge City, Kansas

Tyler Ryan, Sierra High School, Manteca, California

Yolonda Simon, Little Elm High School, Little Elm, Texas

Joseph Wagner, Eads High School, Eads, Colorado

Diallo Wallace, Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, Irvine, Calfornia

Eric Wegryn, Ohlone College, Fremont, California

James Young, North Valleys High School, Reno, Nevada

About the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program 

The SETI Institute’s NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) program is one of ~30 awards to U.S. organizations competitively selected by NASA under the Science Activation program. These cooperative agreements more effectively engage learners of all ages with NASA science. The agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington, DC chooses selections. NASA SMD NNX16AC51A funds the AAA program, which began in 2016. 

About the SETI Institute 

Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary research and education organization whose mission is to lead humanity’s quest to understand the origins and prevalence of life and intelligence in the universe and share that knowledge with the world. Our research encompasses the physical and biological sciences and leverages data analytics, machine learning, and advanced signal detection technologies. The SETI Institute is a distinguished research partner for industry, academia, and government agencies, including NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Contact information

Rebecca McDonald

Director of Communications

SETI Institute

Dr. Dana Backman

AAA Program Lead

SETI Institute

SpaceRef staff editor.