Great educators have great stories. This series gives a glimpse of the ideas, practices, and experiences of the recipients of the NEA Foundation’s California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Today, we’re sharing the words of Bonnie Garrett, a science educator at Westlawn Middle School in Huntsville, Ala.
Huntsville is known as the “Rocket City” and as of 2006 had more engineers per capital than anywhere else in the United States. As a Huntsville STEM educator I wanted to tap into the wide array of human resources in our area.
Several years ago, I reached out to the Army Education Outreach Program (AEOP) and spoke with the coordinator about my vision of having a monthly guest speaker for my students. I explained to her that I wanted my students to be able to meet and talk to various STEM professionals and possibly envision themselves one day having those careers or similar ones. She was very excited about the potential partnership. That’s how my “Futuristic Fridays” began.
Now, the coordinator and I have summer and semester planning sessions, and these STEM professionals look forward to speaking and participating in activities with my students. I have formed similar partnerships with the Space and Rocket Center, the University of Alabama at Huntsville, Alabama A&M University, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing. My students love to be able to work with these organizations, and we often get to participate in extraordinary events as a result of these partnerships.
For example, two years ago we had the opportunity to meet then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and NASA Associate Administrator of Education Donald James. Last year, we spoke to astronaut Timothy Kopra on the International Space Station as he flew over our city via ham radio contact. The contact was live streamed on the web and my students were featured on NASA TV, Educational TV, and the local news.