Amber Bright was recently recognized as the school district’s Intermediate Teacher of the Year, and her most significant contributions to teaching 5th and 6th grade science stem from experiences she had with the space program, she said.
The summer before she began student teaching, Bright was chosen to attend NASA’s Space Center Pre-Service Teacher Institute in June 2011.
“This was a week-long institute that taught engaging activities to incorporate math, science, technology and engineering in my future classroom,” Bright said.
After Bright obtained her current teaching position at Gregory-Portland—in January 2012—she heard about another NASA opportunity that would allow her to fly aboard microgravity aircraft. After submitting recommendations from district officials, teachers and students, Bright became one of five teachers chosen to experience microgravity aboard G-Force One.
“I might have sent over 140 recommendations from my students,” Bright said. “I think that put me over the top.”
Bright said she spent a week at Houston’s Ellington Field preparing to fly aboard the G-Force One.
“I did everything I could not to get sick,” she said. “The airplane does parabolas, which mimic microgravity because it’s a free fall. We did it 40 times.”
The students who vouched for Bright benefitted from her experience.
“This was an amazing experience, and the best teaching tool when describing what gravity is, how it affects us and what your teacher looks like experiencing a microgravity environment,” Bright said.
Bright was again able to spend time at NASA last summer, when she met two astronauts.
Students in Bright’s classes study NASA missions and then build their own missions to similar bodies in space.
Bright said she decided that she wanted to teach after walking her daughter, Cameron, to her kindergarten class.
“I had strong hopes and desires for her educational career,” she said. “I wanted her to have the best teacher—a teacher that would love her and instill in her a desire to learn. I saw other parents who wanted the best for their children. I wanted to be that teacher.”
When Bright graduated from Texas A&M at Corpus Christi in December 2011, Corpus Christi ISD was experiencing cutbacks, she said.
“But we had a job fair at the college, and Gregory-Portland had an opening,” Bright said. “I went for it as hard as I could. Gregory-Portland is small, and I like that. And they pay really well.”
Bright is determined to advocate the importance of STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—fields, particularly considering the current state of the space program, she said.
“The space shuttle program has ended, and (President Barack Obama) hasn’t given us a clear mission for NASA,” Bright said. “China’s headed to putting a man on the moon, and we are catching rides with the Russian Soyuz. What will we do? STEM careers are our future. I wouldn’t mind having a couple astronauts come out of my class.”