If The Stars Align: A Pathway to Teaching

Timeline created by besalchem
  • What do you want to do when you grow up?

    What do you want to do when you grow up?
    My 8th grade English teacher asked me this, and for the first time, I actually gave a response that was more than, "I don't know". Even though it was tentative, I decided, "Maybe work for NASA." To me, that meant be an astronaut, and I had no idea NASA Langley even existed, let alone in my own [regional] backyard.
  • Period: to

    Peer Tutoring

    I spent a lot of time tutoring my friends in high school. I found the process enjoyable, and I really liked helping the kids around me. Teaching was something I knew I could do.
  • Period: to

    Chemistry and AP Chem

    I took Gen Chem and AP Chem with a very influential teacher. She is probably the reason I decided to major in chemistry (that, and I just liked the subject), and probably the reason I'm doing what I do today.
  • Meet your faculty research advisor

    Meet your faculty research advisor
    I was assigned to Dr. Orwoll at W&M. Coincidentally, he did research for space radiation shielding under monies from NASA and the Department of Energy. I entered his lab as a freshman and began, in essence, working for NASA.
  • Period: to

    Work in Research Lab

    I worked in Dr. Orwoll's lab for four straight years. Money came and went, as did lab-mates. The projects usually stayed pretty much the same -- always focusing on space radiation shileding. I learned a great deal in my time there, and although I loved working with the people in my lab, I felt a sense that I was missing interaction with people. By the end of my time in lab, I decided an occupation with constant human presence would be better for me than working under a hood all day.
  • What can you see yourself doing?

    What can you see yourself doing?
    I became a little tired of lab work (although I continued with it), and asked myself what I could see myself doing in the future. The answer to myself, somewhere in the midst of my sophomore year, was that I could see myself right back at my own high school teaching chemistry.
  • School of Ed.

    School of Ed.
    Living with 2 roommates who both joined the School of Education at W&M, and knowing how much I enjoyed peer tutoring in high school, I decided to join the Ed. department, too.
  • Lab Tech at NASA

    Lab Tech at NASA
    This was my first experience going to NASA to do work for my research lab. We used machinery on center at NASA Langley (when I finally figured out that there was a NASA center not 25 miles away from me all my life). I worked on testing the tensile strength of the materials built in our lab as well as their resistance to degradation due to atomic oxygen. I continued this job for the next 18 months or so, but decided that this may not be the job for me after all.
  • But that will never happen...

    But that will never happen...
    Or will it? As I finished up my final semester, I began to get in contact with people from my old high school to let them know I was interested in returning. Knowing that the school as a rather low turnover rate for teachers (many have taught there until retiring), I figured it was a shot in the dark. I was surprised when I heard that one of the chemistry teachers would likely be leaving at the end of the year.
  • Interview

    I traveled back home to interview for my first job. Fortunately, some of the people I interviewed with actually remembered me from 4 years prior. And I didn't know it so well at the time, but a lot of networking was done on my behalf behind the scenes. A few weeks later, I found out I had the job.

    After my first year of teaching, one of my colleagues left school to begin work at the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. She pulled me aboard a project in parternership with NASA called the Virginia Aerospace Science and Techonlogy Scholars. I've facilitated this program every summer since then, and I love it. I'm back at NASA Langley and in a role that much more suits me than sitting in a lab. I get to work with kids who will be the future of NASA and private aerospace industry.