Two NISD high school science teachers selected for NASA program

Two teachers posing with telescope

Two Northside ISD high school science teachers have been selected as 2020 NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA).

The AAA program is a professional development opportunity for high school science teachers designed to improve science teaching and learning and increase student STEM engagement. The program, managed by the SETI Institute since its inception in 2011, has partnered with 29 teachers in 13 states this year.

The Northside ISD participants are:

Ivan Banuelos, Warren High School

Christopher Tijerina, Jay High School

AAA participant teachers receive training in astrophysics and planetary science content and pedagogy. Their training will include a week-long immersion experience at NASA’s science research aircraft facility in Palmdale, California with participation in research flights onboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP airliner that is fitted with a 2.5-meter (100-inch) telescope and uses a suite of seven cameras and spectrographs to study celestial objects at infrared wavelengths. SOFIA operates during 10-hour overnight science missions at altitudes between 39,000 and 45,000 feet (12-14 kilometers), above more than 99 percent of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere that blocks infrared light from reaching ground-based observatories.

The program culminates in classroom delivery of a SOFIA science-oriented curriculum module.  

Banuelos has been teaching for 13 years and is an Astronomy teacher and Science Department Coordinator at Warren. Teaching is his second career. He spent three years after college working in an ophthalmology clinic. When he didn’t find that fulfilling, he decided to become a teacher. He sponsors the Astronomy Club and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (an affiliate of SHPE at UTSA).

Tijerina always knew he wanted to be a science teacher, he just wasn’t sure which branch of science. He became hooked on Earth and Space Science after his first course at UTSA. He teaches Astronomy, Earth and Space Science, and the UT OnRamps Geosciences course at Jay. He was the first teacher in Northside to teach the Geosciences course and now mentors colleagues teaching the subject at other campuses.

This is the second year Northside ISD has participated in the AAA program. Last year, four NISD teachers were selected for the program.