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Foothill Faculty Selected as Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors

February 26, 2021 


February 25, 2021, Mountain View, CA — The SETI Institute has selected 30 teachers from 10 states as 2021 NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAAs). AAA is a professional development program for science teachers designed to improve science teaching and increase student learning and STEM engagement. This year’s expanded AAA program includes not only high school teachers but also middle school and community college teachers. Foothill science faculty Frank Cascarano, David Marasco and Geoff Mathews are among the first community college teachers to be selected.

“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.”

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

“We are grateful that NASA will be funding the AAA program through 2025 and are especially excited to be adding middle school and community college teachers and their students,” said Dr. Dana Backman, AAA program lead. “These teachers will use their professional development and SOFIA 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 2021 are:

  • Anaheim Union High School District, California
  • Anchorage School District, Alaska
  • Anne Arundel Community College, Maryland
  • Canyons School District, Utah
  • Chabot College, California
  • Cobb County Schools, Georgia
  • Fayette County Public Schools, Kentucky
  • Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, California
  • Fort Zumwalt School District, Missouri
  • Harmony Public Schools, Texas
  • William S. Hart Union High School District, California
  • MiraCosta Community College District, California
  • Northside Independent School District (San Antonio), Texas
  • San Mateo Community College District, California
  • Suffolk County Community College, New York
  • The Meadows School, Nevada
  • Washoe County School District, Nevada

The 30 teachers selected as 2021 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors are listed below:

  • Beverly Berekian, Ball Junior High School, Anaheim, California
  • Alicia Black, Dubray Middle School, Saint Peters,Missouri
  • Frank Cascarano, Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California
  • Clief Castleton, Hillcrest High School, Midvale, Utah
  • Fernando Cepeda, Harmony Science Academy – Dallas High, Dallas, Texas
  • Erik Conkey, North Valleys High School, Reno, Nevada
  • Wesley Cullen, Dubray Middle School, Saint Peters, Missouri
  • Dana Evans, Walton High School, Marietta, Georgia
  • Rica French, MiraCosta College, Oceanside, California
  • Marisa Heflin, Arroyo Seco Junior High School, Santa Clarita, California
  • Scott Hildreth, Chabot College, Hayward, California
  • Kathleen Kraus, Wallace B. Jefferson Middle School, San Antonio, Texas
  • Deborah Levine, Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Maryland
  • David Marasco, Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California
  • Stephen Martin, Damonte Ranch High School, Reno, Nevada
  • Linda Martinez, Harmony Science Academy – San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas
  • Geoffrey Mathews, Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California
  • Milo Maughan, Corner Canyon High School, Draper, Utah
  • Jenny McCall, Winburn Middle School, Lexington, Kentucky
  • Tami McIntire, Palmer Middle School, Kennesaw, Georgia
  • Jason Patterson, Clark Middle School, Anchorage, Alaska
  • Zachary Richards, Suffolk County Community College, Brentwood, New York
  • Richard Rochin, Brookhurst Junior High School, Anaheim, California
  • Erin Schneider, Goldenview Middle School, Anchorage, Alaska
  • Darryl Stanford, College of San Mateo, San Mateo, California
  • Scott Trujillo, The Meadows School, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Shelley Turski, La Mesa Junior High School, Santa Clarita, California
  • Shannon Ventresca, East Cobb Middle School, Marietta, Georgia
  • Stacy Wade-Robb, Rio Norte Junior High School, Santa Clarita, California
  • Pamela Word, Jay High School, San Antonio, Texas