SYLACAUGA, Ala. – On Tuesday, March 1, the SETI Institute announced that one of Sylacauga High School’s (SHS) teachers had been selected for one of its prestigious programs.
SHS biology and physics teacher Amy Dennis was chosen to represent the school and community in NASA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) program.
Dennis is a 2015 graduate of SHS and earned her bachelor’s degree from Jacksonville State University (JSU). In addition to her preparation for the AAA program, she also is completing her master’s degree from JSU.
This is the tenth edition of NASA’s AAA initiative which began in 2009. SETI selects 24 teachers from around the country to participate each cycle, and Dennis is the first ever picked from the state of Alabama.
“I love, love, love the study of space and astronomy,” Dennis said. “It is such an honor to be the first teacher from Alabama selected for this program, and I will be so excited to pass onto my students what I am learning in astrophysics and planetary science. This is an incredible opportunity.”
The AAA program aims to measurably enhance students’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning and engagement.
Later this year the group will gather at a NASA science research facility. The two options include in California on research flights aboard the flying Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), or at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawai’i where the group will potentially participate in research nights at the Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF).
Their final destination is still a NASA top secret.
Before all of this happens, the group of 24 will prepare with STEM professional development training that will further detail aspects of AAA that involve studies of infrared science instruments, data reductions, and research cycles.
Dennis qualified for the program after attending the Space Academy for educators in Huntsville last summer. However, she will not be allowed to join with the group later this year unless she completes the development process by an unspecified deadline.
“We are so proud of Ms. Dennis for qualifying as the first teacher from Alabama to be a part of this distinct NASA Program,” Sylacauga City Schools superintendent Dr. Michele Eller said. “Her love of science is evident in the quality instruction she brings to our students on a daily basis.”