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HIGH POINT, N.C. — It started as far back as Janis McDonald can remember.

“I’ve always been interested in space and NASA ever since I was a small child,” said McDonald. “I got to see Neil Armstrong take his giant leap for mankind and was always glued to the TV during as many launches as we could. My parents took me to Cape Canaveral when I was a child. I went again as an adult and then I took my own children there and got to see one of the space shuttles take off. So it’s just always been something that has interested me.” 

So when the Southwest Guilford High School science teacher heard about the NC Space Education Ambassadors program sponsored by NASA, she decided to apply.

“I thought you know, what the heck, what have I got to lose?”

Nothing, but she had a lot to gain. As one of 15 STEM educators chosen from across the state, she was excited to learn she would be working closely with officials from NASA.

McDonald was very excited to learn she would be developing a curriculum to get NASA’s educational programs into more classrooms all across the state.

According to McDonald, “The goal is to get where any teacher, any grade can find some sort of NASA activity to link into their curriculum. And maybe, just maybe, there are some kindergarten or second grade or even one of my high school kids now (thinking), ‘Oh, this is the best, and I want to be an astronaut.'”

The ambassadors have webinars twice a month and they earn badges according to their progress. McDonald says because of the activities she has to do, she has become a student again.

“I know nothing about coding at all,” McDonald said. “And I tried to play with this and kind of got a little frustrated myself, I think, cause I was in a hurry, but I showed the link to two of our career technical education teachers, and they were excited about that. And one teacher already sent me a whole list of his standards that this would work for and that he plans to use it with his AP coding class. So it’s already working.

“The plan that NASA and N.C. State had for me and all the other educators for our North Carolina space education ambassador program is already working, and I’m hardly even started.”

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