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2014 MAVEN Educator Ambassadors

Meet the 2014 MAVEN Educator Ambassadors


Robert Bonadurer
Robert Bonadurer, Planetarium Director at the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium in the Milwaukee Public Museum, has taught over 600,000 people—young and young at heart—the wonders of the Universe. He has produced and directed over 20 astronomy shows and films—some of which have been distributed internationally. One of his shows has won an international scriptwriting award. Bonadurer’s most recent production is entitled Chasing the Ghost Particle—From the South Pole to the Edge of the Universe, a show all about neutrinos and the IceCube telescope in Antarctica. Recent planetarium productions include Galileo: The Power of the Telescope and Cosmic Colors: An Adventure Along the Spectrum.  His original live Valentine’s show for couples, Romancing the Stars, has been an annual success for nearly 20 years.

Mr. Bonadurer has also hosted numerous astronomical events for eclipses, meteor showers, and solstice celebrations. He had led three total solar eclipse tours to various parts of the world. He has worked on many educational grants from NASA and can also be found in the local media helping to explain the most recent astronomical discovery or spectacular sky event. Mr. Bonadurer is a native of La Crosse, WI and has served as director of the Minneapolis Planetarium as well as the University of Texas at Arlington. He is also the past President of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association.

Brestel.TomTom Brestel
I am the physics, chemistry, and applied science teacher at Holdrege High School in Holdrege, Nebraska. I started teaching at Holdrege in 1988, where I taught physics and algebra II. I have had various teaching assignments through the years including computer applications and hypermedia. I attended Plasma Camp at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 2002 and was invited back in 2004 to share my activity “Photo”spectroscopy with new Plasma Campers. I was selected in 1997 to be part of the Phase II Modeling Physics Program at Arizona State University. I also have attended CIPT and CICT at Cornell University in 2008 and 2009. In the Summer of 2013 I received training at the Kennedy Space Center to be a NASA Nebraska Space Ambassador. I have been active in the Nebraska Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers since 1990 where I have held the office of president and am currently the secretary/treasurer. I live in Holdrege, Nebraska with my wife.  I have two adult daughters, a son-in-law, and two very cute granddaughters. My hobbies include computers and motorcycles.

Broadhead.ValerieValarie Broadhead
Being a Native American/Hispanic female, growing up in the inner city (projects of LA), I never dreamed of being who I am today. I love teaching science. I love learning science, and I love that I can modify it to fit any age/ability. Community outreach to get inner city students exposed to science and build their confidence in their ability to “do” science is my goal. I want students (minorities and/or females) to be excited about science, fall in love with it, and have it contribute to changing their path in life to include a career in a science related field.


DeVicariis.DaraDara DeVicariis
I have been teaching geosciences and now physical science for 10 years in schools where students have little history with the science of the world around them. I have been married for 37 years and I have 4 adult children and 5 grandchildren. I received my Bachelor’s Degree from La Sierra University and a Master’s degree in education from Walden University and I am finishing a Master’s degree in geosciences from Mississippi State University. Nine years ago, I became involved with FIRST Robotics and I have introduced Robotics to the Colton Unified School District where I coach a Lego League, TechChallenge and FRC Teams.



Dodrill.TraceyTracey Lou Dodrill
Tracey Lou Dodrill is a middle school science teacher in the Scottsdale, Arizona Unified School District currently teaching 7th grade science at Cocopah Middle School. Tracey received her B.S. degree in journalism and communications with an emphasis in public relations from the University of Florida. She continued her graduate studies in communications at Southwestern. Dodrill spend the first fifteen years of her career serving as a Public Information Officer for a Sheriff and two District Attorneys in Florida. Relocating to Arizona, Tracey returned to academia in 2005. Dodrill attended Scottsdale Community College’s Post Baccalaureate Teacher Education Program completing her K-8 teaching certification program and graduating magna cum laude. Her focus has always been teaching middle level science. She has continued taking graduate classes through University of Phoenix and Ottawa University. As a single mother, Tracey is raising two foster/adopted special needs children. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, traveling, reading and exploring the world with her kids. One of her favorite places to visit is BC, Canada. Tracey’s goal for middle level science is to inspire and ignite a love for learning science through experiential learning. Dodrill’s passion for teaching has led her to plan and organize Family Science Saturdays for her students, bring STEM speakers into her class weekly to expose students to career options and opportunities, provide and participate with her students in service learning opportunities within the science community, and partner with STEM organizations throughout Arizona and the USA to bring unique opportunities to her students.

Fusinatto.TaylorTaylor Fusinatto
Taylor Fusinatto graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University-Chicago. She taught English to new immigrants and first generation Americans, preschool to grade 5, at a community center in Chicago. She currently is the middle school science teacher and department chair at Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies with Evanston Skokie Consolidated School District. Taylor participated in a materials science and nanotechnology workshop at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and acted as a research assistant on a nano-drug delivery system for chemothearputic medicine at University of Illinois Chicago. She has presented on  nanotechnology labs adapted for middle school students at the Illinois state CONNECTIONS conference and on literacy strategies in the content areas at the Illinois Reading Council Conference. Most recently, Taylor established the first STELLAR GIRLS after school engineering program in the district.

Hepburn.DimitriDimitri Hepburn
I was born in the Bahamas and I grew up in the Bronx, New York as the son of two high school chemistry and biology teachers. In kindergarten, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be. I said I wanted to be a scientist. When I got to college I tried my hand at computer science and felt I was missing the human connection. After spending some time as an elementary education major, I had a biology professor who told me she could tell I should be in all of her science classes. I ended up taking biology, marine biology, zoology, animal behavior, and a few other classes with that professor on my way to a bachelor’s degree in biology.  I currently teach 7th and 8th grade science on the West Side of Chicago at an amazing school that some have described as an oasis of learning and calm in a very turbulent neighborhood.

Hubner.JanetJanet Hubner
I love to explore. I began my journey through programs like Amigos de las Americas and American Field Service. After my time at UC Davis, I explored the US while working in several National Parks.  In 1983 I attended UC Berkeley and earned my teaching credential. During my first few years as a teacher I spent the summers exploring California while working as an interpretive naturalist at state parks. I continue to explore the world through summer travel and summer classes. When school starts in August, I share my most recent class experiences so that my students know that I understand the effort it takes to learn. I share how experience has helped me prepare for the school year. I ask students to make sure they are prepared to start exploring with me. Most of my career has been spent teaching at Edison-Computech. Computech is an award-winning magnet program drawing from Fresno, a community of nearly 600,000 people. Even though my school is a diverse and wonderful place to teach, I left Computech twice. I spent one year teaching for Department of Defense schools in Germany, and one year at home with my adopted children. Each time I have returned to Computech because that is where students and staff share my love of learning and exploring.

Jarigese.KevinKevin Jarigese
As a founder of the Rio Rancho Astronomical Society and a native Coloradoan, my  love of science has been carried into the classroom. My most inspirational moment in my career was having the opportunity to meet John Dobson. The day I met him was the day I knew that astronomy was going to be a lifelong passion. Currently, I am teaching at Albuquerque High School and am developing integrated chemistry and physics classes to assist students who have English as a second language (ESL). My primary function is to provide these students with unique learning experiences.

Jensen.SallySally Jensen
I now teach science to middle school age students in a “sports/academic” private school after 30 plus years of teaching students about LIFE, in the name of science and social studies. Waterville Academy is an interesting school. Five months out of the year, students who have a passion for competitive skiing train, compete, and keep up with their academics during a seven day a week schedule. It is intense and students seem to thrive on it. The future goal of the school is to become a full time school with their own curricula. In 2009, for the first time, a middle school program was piloted at Waterville Valley Academy with a standard-based, inquiry, integrated curricula. I was the director of a team of three teachers and the results were amazing. Pursuing, Engaging, in Authentic Knowledge (PEAK) is the name of this innovative experience for students. This was my first experience as a director and trying something NEW to implement was so cool!! I am a lifelong learner and currently a student of voice and clarinet. My home is in Campton, New Hampshire, on the high banks of Livermore Falls where camptonite, a rock, is found.  There is a lot of geologic history here. My favorite spot is the porch where I have my morning coffee overlooking the falls. One of my favorite quotes of Einstein is, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” How fitting as I continue my quest as a MAVEN Educator Ambassador .

Knudsen.VirginiaVirginia Knudsen
Ms. Knudsen is an educator on a mission; a mission to give her time, talents, and resources to as many young people as possible during her past 25 years in education. Being the STEM Science Lead Teacher during the school day for over 300 Title I, at-risk students at Parkway Middle School, Ms. Knudsen takes a technologically intensive approach to collaborative training with peer teachers for inquiry and project based instruction on atmospheric & geological science and meteorology, rocketry, and civil engineering. As a MAVEN Educator Ambassador, she will connect Earth meteorology and climate change to Mars atmospheric evolution and exploration, thereby bridging the knowledge of earth systems with planetary discovery. She is also the after-school Civil Air Patrol Cadets at School squadron commander for Crystal Lake Middle School where aerospace technology & robotics is encouraged.

These contributions give Ms. Knudsen plenty of opportunities to use her aviation piloting skills to inspire youth toward a higher level of goal setting in life. She was the program developer and administrator for the 2007-2010 after-school Boys & Girls Clubs “Ionosphere Club of Flight” for over 300 inner-city youth; developed a meteorological curriculum for the Broward School District STEM Grant program; has collaborated with Florida Atlantic University’s Engineering Department and graduate students on Parkway Middle School engineering projects; has supervised the NASA Rocketry Student Launch Project National Competition; and has led two teams in the AFA’s CyberPatriot program in 2012 and 2013. She has also worked with aerospace organizations like: EAA Young Eagles flights, Challenge Air, Women in Aviation, Ft Lauderdale Naval Air Museum, Miami Tuskegee Airmen, and AFA Chapter 351 as the aerospace workshop director for Broward County Teachers.

Ms. Knudsen touches various areas of education in the academic community,  youth organizations, aerospace and community outreach.  Ms. Knudsen certainly demonstrates her message to the teaching profession, “A teacher effects eternity; he/she can never tell where their influence stops.”

Lowry.MichaelMichael Lowry
Michael is a native Kentuckian, having grown up in Louisville. As a DOE TRAC associate, he studied the applications of laser technologies at Ames National Laboratory. An Access Excellence Fellow, he assisted in the creation of an Internet database for use by biology teachers ( He also has done field research involving black bears as part of the Earthwatch expedition. He sailed around the North Atlantic as a crewmember aboard the research vessel SSV Westward doing oceanographic research through the SEA Education Program. He has been an instructor for the Duke TIP program and an active participant in their research of talented youth. He is a member of the National Reform School Faculty and a CFG coach. Michael also traveled to Japan to study the Japanese educational system as a Fulbright Fellow.

Michael is both an Assessor for the National Board Certification program for teachers as well as being National Board Certified. He was named a Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Science Teaching in addition to being awarded the Early Career Award from Columbia University, Teachers College. He has published articles in Inorganic Chemistry, Radford Writer, Material Chemistry and serves as an editor for The Clearing House and is particularly interested in using writing as means to learn science.

A passion of his is the study of martial arts. He is an avid reader, a mountaineer (having climbed in Alaska, Washington, Wyoming and the European Alps), and opera fan (enjoying the Seattle production of the Ring).

Munoz.ShellyShelly Munoz
Shelly Munoz is a 7th grade Life Science Teacher, STEM consultant and is passionate about  inspiring the next generation of students to love Science. She holds a Professional Clear Multiple Credential with an emphasis in Science and Masters of Science from California Baptist University. Two times “Golden Bell” recipient for collaboration (2004, 2013)  and two time “Teacher of the Year” (2005, 2013) Shelly’s love for science is clear. She had been selected for the prestigious Space Camp for Educators Honeywell, Zero G’s Northrop Grumman, is currently a NASA Solar System Ambassador, UCR Scribes grant recipient and STEM consultant. She is acting grade chair, BTSA support provider, NSTA National Conference presenter and recently publish in NSTA STEM Curriculum Guide.


Naples.CharlotteCharlotte Naples
Charlotte teaches Earth Science and Astronomy and is also the Rocket Club adviser for the afterschool club (which qualified for a national rocket challenge (TARC) last year and hopes to again this year). Charlotte is on the board of directors for a local Challenger Learning Center that she is trying to get up and running.  She spent a week at the SETI Institute learning about Astrobiology last summer and has done various professional development workshops at our local and regional science teacher conferences (STANYS) and several workshops to train teachers on the Voyages Through Time program.

She has a passion for astronomy, reading, nature and design.  Charlotte likes to snowshoe, hike, bike ride, and walk her dog.  She has a 20 year old son who attends college for criminal justice.  She lives in Saratoga Springs, NY which is a well kept secret.  Saratoga has cold springs which are unique in the world as well as thoroughbred horse racing and a vibrant art scene.


Newmyer.DanielDaniel Newmyer
Daniel Newmyer of Mosca, Colorado received his B.S. in Business Finance from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Master of Education in Space Science Education Leadership from Regis University. Prior to teaching Mr. Newmyer ran a water well drilling company and has volunteered in Africa, Haiti, Central Asia, and Cambodia training locals in groundwater development. In 2006 he became a teacher and is currently an 8-12 math and science teacher in the Center School District.

Mr. Newmyer has implemented award winning science fair programs in two of the most under-resourced districts in Colorado, consistently sending students to state and international science fairs and earning with his students the San Luis Valley Regional Science Fair Small School of the Year award six years running. Mr. Newmyer is a Space Foundation Teacher Liaison, a New Horizons Educator Fellow, a Fellow for the Society for Science and the Public, a Siemens STEM Fellow, and the Regional Teacher of the Year. Most recently he was honored as an innovator in space education with the 2013 Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award given by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, NASA, and the Space Foundation.


Nipper.MollyMolly Nipper
Molly is a Physics teacher for Gifted & Talented students in Spring Branch ISD in Houston, Texas.  Though she teaches students from 3-5th grade, her curriculum is more middle and high school level physics. She has a total of 8 years teaching Science.  Molly’s first teaching experience was teaching 7th grade Science at Hodges Bend Middle School in Fort Bend ISD in Sugar Land, Texas.  Later, she taught AP Physics and Pre-AP physics to high school students at Memorial High School in Spring Branchi ISD in Houston, Texas.

Her educational background consists of strong science content.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and minor in Biology from the University of Houston 1994.  Later she received her Master of Science Teaching degree at Rice University in Physics and Astronomy in 2010.     Molly is a NASA Heliophysics Educator Ambassador (HEA).  As a HEA participant, she learned about NASA many missions and received several materials and learned hands-on engaging activities that we took back and shared with our teachers on our campuses and presented at local and regional workshops.  She was a presenter at the Science Exploration Educators Conference 2010 at NASA Johnson Space Center.  She has also done a short workshop session at the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teacher in Fort Worth, Texas 2008.

Molly has participated in many programs to enrich and develop her skills as a teacher:

  1. Rice University RESST (Rice Excellence Secondary Science Teaching) program that focuses on Inquiry Base teaching for high school Physics teachers.
  2. Rice Experience Teaching 4 weeks summer program has given her experience to work with a graduate student on Research with Nanotube Fibers in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department at Rice University.
  3. Rice Elementary Model Science Lab program has given her knowledge and experience with elementary curriculum and curriculum development.

Her passion is teaching kids science and having fun along the way.

Orr.LauraLaura Orr
Laura Orr is a scientist and educator teaching in a very small rural school district in Eastern Oregon.  She teaches all science classes for grades 6-12 in Ukiah.  Laura hopes to inspire a new generation of scientists by providing students with the knowledge, experience, the use of technology and leadership skills needed to gain access to any science related subject that interests them.  Outside of the classroom she is a leader in promoting science education as a member of the OSTA board and participant in many education and public outreach programs such as THEMIS/GEONS, Heliophysics Educational Amassador, NITARP and the Heliophysics Community of Practice.  She is also an active member of the community involving herself as the director of the local ski/snowboard club, leader for the 4-H Science and Livestock clubs, and coordinator of the Annual Easter Egg Hunt.  Laura has a Bachelor of Physics degree from Eastern Oregon University, a Master Degree in Science Education, and is currently pursuing certification in meteorology.

Owens.BeverlyBeverly Owens
Beverly is a Program Manager of Professional Development at the Discovery Place Education Studio in Charlotte, NC. The Discovery Place Education Studio is a STEM Center in uptown Charlotte, and was established with the purpose of providing professional development experiences for teachers. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is one of the largest schools districts in the United States, ranking at number 17 based on enrollment. Mecklenburg County has 157 public schools, serving 142,612 students that are taught by 9,221 teachers. The school populations vary widely. CMS is an urban school district where many of the families are economically disadvantaged, including 54% of the students being served by the free or reduced lunch program. CMS has made great strides and focused a lot of time and energy on closing the achievement gap when it comes to gender, economic status, and race.

Beverly has always been fascinated by space science, and she is constantly looking for ways to integrate current scientific research into curriculum writing and instruction. She enjoys learning new information about science, teaching it to students, or demonstrating it for other teachers.


Passmore.CaseyCasey Passmore
Casey Passmore lives and breathes science having taught science in classrooms, parks, beaches, former Army forts, online, gardens, farms, marshes, forests, tide pools, and summer learning programs for over thirteen years. A strong believer of doing science, Casey strives to get students to understand how science influences every aspect of their lives.  Her favorite field trips involve digging up sand crabs at the sandy beach, touching anemones at the tide pools, and exploring the wastewater treatment plant.

Casey most recently taught seventh grade life science and pre-algebra in San Francisco and is now a Middle School Science Content Specialist with San Francisco Unified School District’s Office of Curriculum & Instruction, supporting teachers and planning for implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. She has also taught environmental education along California’s Central Coast; taught biology, chemistry, earth science and life science at a private school in Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras; and taught earth and physical sciences in a rural district along California’s coast. Casey has teaching credentials in Biological Sciences, Foundation-Level Mathematics, and with a Bilingual, Crosscultural, Language and Academic Development certificate in Spanish, and has taught students at every grade level from kindergarten to twelfth.

Powers.LynnLynn Powers
Lynn Powers was raised in Seattle but has called Bozeman, Montana home for the past 12 years. She is an informal educator with a Masters of Science in Science Education from the University of Montana.  She currently a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, Heliophysics Community of Practice lead teacher, the Southwest Montana Astronomical Society club president, and the Bozeman High School Astronomy Club advisor.  She has enjoyed conducting astronomy related public outreach programs through out the region, including programs in Bozeman, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and Museum of the Rockies.



Pruett.LeeLee Pruett
I have Bachelors (University of Chicago) and Masters (University of Maine) degrees in Earth Science and have taught high school science for the past seven years.  Prior to becoming a science teacher, I spent four years working in climate change research for the United States Geological Survey (USGS).  Currently, I teach AP environmental science and chemistry at an all-girls high school in Silicon Valley and am passionate about encouraging and inspiring young women to pursue STEM careers.   One of the professional highlights of my career was being selected as a summer scholar through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), as I believe strongly in the value of an interdisciplinary approach to the learning of science.    Along these lines, I currently work with my school colleagues on the Education for Justice and Leadership committee to integrate curricular themes across content areas.    Outside of my professional life, I enjoy space (and movies that use space as a metaphor for human existential dilemma), traveling during the summers, museums, blogging, working on craft projects, photography, and vivacious intellectual discussion.  Most of all, however, I enjoy doing these things with my family.

Rabogliatti.TheresaTheresa Rabogliatti
My educational background includes a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in environmental science from Gannon University. I have over 20 years experience working with children in both formal and informal settings, 17 years spent in the classroom teaching grades 1-12. These have included various schools, educational programs and a residential environmental education center.  I have mentored an after school science club or STEM program for 8 years. My students competed in various science and engineering competitions both at local and state levels. I constantly look for ways to improve my science teaching and to encourage my students to do science.

Richardson.LutherLuther Richardson
Luther Richardson is an educator who seeks real science and engineering experiences for the students in his classroom.  Students from Luther’s classes have designed and built inventions sponsored by MIT, flown experiments of their own design on NASA rockets, balloons, and on the space shuttle.  These projects are supported by what is taught in AP Physics, and AP Computer Science.  Luther is the author of “Advanced Physics” published by the CK12 Foundation.  In addition to being an educator, Luther works on engineering projects with AstroSystems, LLC using his M.Eng. in Systems Engineering from Georgia Tech and B.S. in Physics from Auburn University.

Santos.EricEric Santos
My name is Eric C. Santos and I am a National Board Certified Science Teacher working in the Kyrene School District of Phoenix, AZ. I have a Master of Education degree from National-Louis University. I have taught middle school science and math for 8 years. I’ve been a basketball coach for 6 of those years, and have also coached Chess Club, soccer, baseball, and run an after school Astronomy Club. I was born and raised in Chicago and am a big time Bulls, Bears, and White Sox fan. In my spare time, I enjoy playing basketball, biking, golfing, reading, amateur astronomy, the occasional mud-run, and spending time with my wife and 3 kids. During the summer I run basketball camps, coach youth sports, and provide private basketball training to aspiring young athletes.

Soash.BrianBrian Soash
I teach math and science at Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo Ohio.  I have taught 7th, 8th, and now 5th and 6th grade math and science classes in my teaching career. I guide my teaching career by the quote from W.B. Yeats that “Education is not a filling of a pail, but a lighting of a fire”.  I enjoy lighting passions in my students and inspiring them to be lifelong learners in both science and math.  I’ve been able to do that with the daily opportunity to teach both subjects and work them into cross curricular experiences.  In addition to teaching I also am a coach on Maumee Valley’s Track team, and part of the Brooks Running Inspiring Coaches Program.  I have actively participated in science education in many ways.  I’ve volunteered at bug days, fossil fairs, and gem mining for local science museums.  I’ve also been an active presenter at National Science Teacher Association and North Carolina Science Teachers Association conferences.  Students in my class gain an appreciation for working through the scientific process through inquiry lessons.  I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life than working in science education, and enjoy seeing the passion spread among students as they make their own discoveries.


Squires.AmeliaAmelia Squires
Amelia Squires graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education from Creighton University in 2010, and is currently seeking her Master’s of Science in Elementary Education with a concentration in STEM Education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She taught for two years for Omaha Public Schools at Spring Lake Magnet Center before joining the University of Nebraska at Omaha as the UNO STEM Education Outreach Coordinator. In this position, she was placed at the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, NE as the Education Coordinator, where she developed hundreds of hours of STEM curriculum for K-12 youth. As of 2014, Amelia now works from UNO’s campus in the same role, reaching thousands of local students through STEM outreach efforts.  Amelia is proud to have participated in numerous STEM related professional development experiences, including NASA’s Pre-Service Teacher Institute in 2010 and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s Space Academy for Educators in 2011. She was also a member of the 2013 NASA Spaceflight Explorers cohort, and is a new member of the Nebraska Education Space Ambassadors.

Suprenant.JodyJody Suprenant
Jody Suprenant obtained her Bachelors in Science from the University at Albany, her CT (ASCP) from Albany Medical College, and her Master of Science and Certificate of Advanced Study in Education from the State University of New York at Plattsburg. She has been a science teacher at Fort Edward Union Free School District for the last thirteen years, specializing in Earth Science and Living Environment, but has also developed electives in forensics, meteorology, marine science, global change and environmental science. Fort Edward is a very small school equidistant from Boston, New York City and Montreal, nestled in the foothills of the Adirondacks.   In addition to teaching, Jody has coached Varsity Softball and Girls on the Run. She has served as a class advisor, building leader, grant coordinator and technology resource specialist.

Thomas.LatanjaLatanja Thomas
I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama in the heart of the space industry.  After several field trips to the Alabama Space and Rocket Center and visiting United Space Boosters where my father worked during the initial years of the shuttle’s development, I was hooked. I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Science – Early Adolescence, and have taught sixth grade general science for much of my career.  I love working with young people and think my enthusiasm for the subject and love of learning is contagious. There’s nothing more exciting than watching middle school students lose themselves with excitement in the classroom.  I am a mother of two, love to garden, read, and craft.




Thompson.DeniseDenise Thompson
Denise Thompson is a STEM master teacher at Orting High School in Orting Washington.  Teaching in a small rural environment, Denise teaches a variety of subjects that encompass all letters in STEM.  Denise has just returned to the classroom after one year on leave to serve as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. While on leave she was one of the last teachers to have the opportunity to participate in a microgravity research project on behalf of her students though NASA’s Teaching from Space program.  Denise is excited to incorporate all that she learned during her leave into her classroom, beginning with adding pre-programing and computational thinking skills, a new environmental sensor engineering project, and the use of 3-D printing technology to her courses.  She also keeps herself busy offering astrobiology related professional development for teachers as a NASA Solar System Educator, and coaching a Mars Exploration Student Data Team.

Vaughan.LeeAnnLeeAnn Vaughan
LeeAnn Vaughan is a veteran science educator with the Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska.  After completion of her Masters degree, LeeAnn went on to earn a Certificate in Urban Education and began teaching science at Omaha North High Magnet School. She developed and facilitated the school’s Biotechnology program, which eventually led to her recognition as the 2007 National Biotechnology Educator of the Year. The following year, she was honored by the White House with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. After her work at Omaha North, LeeAnn was reassigned to the Henry Doorly Zoo as OPS Lead Science Teacher. During her four-year period at the zoo, LeeAnn developed Vet Science and Advanced Research courses to compliment the Zoology program for high school students. For the past two years, LeeAnn has been in her current position at Burke High School where teaches Physics, Intro to Aeronautics, and Intro to Aircraft and Rocketry. LeeAnn is part of a design team for Burke’s new Air and Space Academy program.  Her current position in aviation education has allowed her to soar to new heights, literally! LeeAnn was selected for SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program. She will fly onboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) and will be paired with a professional astronomer to observe first-hand how airborne infrared astronomy is conducted.   LeeAnn has also been a leader in STEM education. Her roles include long-time Science Matters Key Leader and she has presented at numerous professional development workshops around the country.