HUNTSVILLE Ala. -- Hundreds of teachers from 35 countries converged at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy program.
Very few people get to take the trip into space, but 224 teachers got just about as close as you can here on Earth.
"I think what I'm going to do is the first day of school, walk in with my flight suit on," said Danielle Farr, a 7th-grade teacher in Missouri.
Farr is a science teacher in Kansas City Missouri. She trained in the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy program.
"Having an opportunity like this, not only helps me firm up, and hone my skills teaching the history, but also giving them a glimpse of what is to come, and helping them understand what sorts of things they need to do in order to be a part of that history that's coming," Farr said.
For the past 14 years, Honeywell, a software industrial company, sponsors teachers to come to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. The program is meant to help teachers become more confident in understanding STEM curricula, that's science, technology, engineering, and math.
"We like to talk about the teachers, and you can't inspire students without inspiring the teachers first," said Kerry Kennedy, Honeywell's Director of Global Corporate Citizenship.
The teachers come into the program as students, learning astronaut training, thermal design, coding, and robotics.
"STEM is not really a big thing in South Africa at the moment," said Frieda De Bruyn, a 12th-grade biology teacher from South Africa." And so it was really so great for me to learn about these different techniques and how they're using it in their classes here in America, and incorporate those techniques in my class in South Africa as well."
De Bruyn attended the space academy last year and is back this year as an ambassador. After her experience, she said she learned the importance of motivating her students to explore STEM. She then organized a trip for her students to go visit an engineering company in South Africa.
"You feel like it's a great responsibility on you because you are really teaching the future generation. And I think sometimes you just get dragged down in the process," said De Bruyn. "And just to come here and to feel like a kid again, and be part of this experience, just so wonderful to inspire us to then go above and beyond."
Since it started in 2004, 3,000 teachers from 63 countries have participated in the space academy. Teachers applied for the program through the Rocket Center, which then scores the teachers on a rubric. The top-performing teachers are chosen to attend the academy all expenses paid.