Three Hart district teachers selected to participate in NASA airborne observatory flight

The William S. Hart Union High School District office
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Three William S. Hart Union High School District teachers have been selected to participate in a NASA airborne observatory flight later this year, district officials announced Tuesday.

Hart district teachers Marisa Heflin, from Arroyo Seco Junior High School, Shelley Turski, from La Mesa Junior High School, and Stacy Wade-Robb, of Rio Norte Junior High School, were all selected to participate in NASA and the SETI Institute’s joint operation to fly on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

Shelley Turski. Photo courtesy of the Hart District.

With their admission onto the flight, a total of 17 Hart district teachers have now been selected to be “Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors” over the years, and join a group of local science teachers who have participated in NASA training program at the space program’s Armstrong Research Center in Palmdale.

This year and after their week’s worth of training, the three teachers within the program will then partake in two separate missions aboard a modified Boeing 747 and conduct experiments alongside NASA scientists. All information gained and experienced is then brought back into the teachers’ classrooms.

Stacy Wade-Robb. Photo courtesy of the Hart District.

“Science teachers having the opportunity to interact with scientists and be a part of their scientific studies as those studies are being rolled out is priceless,” said David LeBarron, director of curriculum and assessment for the Hart district. “The knowledge and skills learned, along with the teachers’ excitement for science, returns to their classrooms with them and their students benefit.”

Officials said on Tuesday that this year’s program, with its 30 teachers from 10 different states, has been expanded to include not only high school teachers, but also middle school and community college teachers as well.

Marisa Heflin. Photo courtesy of the Hart District.

“Over its history, our NASA-funded AAA program has impacted tens of thousands of high school students through the immersive and inspirational experience of their teachers,” said Bill Diamond, CEO of the SETI Institute. “This powerful STEM program will allow the SETI Institute to help bring NASA science into classrooms across the country.”

District administrators have not specified the exact dates for the training and dual missions, but said in their statement on Tuesday about the three teachers’ selection that they would begin the program “sometime in fall of 2021.”

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