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A high school math teacher from Kansas City, Missouri enrolled herself in an astronaut training program at NASA with the intent of inspiring a deeper level of interest in math and science among her students.

Jennifer Engelhardt teaches various levels of mathematics at Park Hill South High School in Kansas City and says that she wanted to immerse herself in the hands-on, nonstop astronaut training with the hope of igniting a keener desire within her students to learn about science and math and to get excited about what the fields have to offer in the way of a career. Educators across the United States are talking about STEM – an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math – and that is what prompted Engelhardt to take the NASA training.

Over the next ten years, jobs in the STEM fields are projected to double and Engelhardt is excited about the prospect of getting teens excited about math and science as early as possible.

The math teacher spent an entire week at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. She was one of only 200 teachers from around the world who was selected to participate in the training as part of a scholarship program sponsored by Honeywell. She and the other teachers attending the training spent the week performing tasks and learning concepts similar to those performed by NASA astronauts.

The program is intended to give teachers a trigger for igniting a greater level of student interest in the STEM fields. Despite the rising demand in the job market, currently only about 16% of high school seniors pursue a career in the STEM fields.

Engelhardt plans to incorporate everything she learned at the training into her curriculum this coming school year and even got to keep the NASA astronaut space suit as a memento and a point of interest for her students.