From Science Teacher to Flight Director
Jennifer Becerra has always loved
science, but it wasn’t until college that she developed a deep love for space. After
receiving a seemingly random suggestion, Becerra chose to enroll in astronomy.
Ever since that fateful course, her love of science and space has led Becerra
to become a science teacher, a NASA employee and, now, the newly named Flight
Director of the Scobee Education Center.
Becerra began working at SAC earlier
this semester and is preparing to move into her role—and the new high tech
Scobee Education Center—as the Academic Program Coordinator and Lead Flight
Director once the Center officially opens this Fall. When asked what she likes
about science, Becerra says she likes the discovery, “You never know what’s
going to be out there. There are always new things to be discovered and
studied.” Like space, Becerra’s quest for the “new” and “unknown” extends into
life as well.
A graduate of the University of
Incarnate Word, Becerra’s career took off as she began teaching middle school
science for Northside ISD. While working as a teacher, she decided to venture
into a master’s program in curriculum and instruction at Our Lady of the Lake
University, specializing in science. Still chasing her love of space, Becerra
soon found herself at a dream job working at the Johnson Space Center in
Houston as a NASA Aerospace Education Specialist.
The unique, fun job took her
traveling—albeit not through space—through an eight-state region, from the
Dakotas to New Mexico, on a mission to educate students and professionals about
aerospace. Among other things, Becerra helped students on projects directly for
the International Space Station while touring. In her time at NASA, she also
served as a Science Education Specialist and NASA Fit Explorer Project Lead.
In 2010, Becerra had the
opportunity to come back “home” to San Antonio and return to the classroom.
Though she had a great experience working at NASA, she welcomed the return home
and soon rejoined her teaching family at Northside ISD. Until recently, Becerra
was happily teaching science at a local middle school and serving as the
Science Department Coordinator. When the position for the Flight Director was
posted, it immediately piqued Becerra’s interest. A space-related job, in San
Antonio, working with students and teachers… is this too good to be true?
As the Flight Director of SAC’s
Challenger Center, Becerra will lead students on missions, train teachers to be
able to teach space science to students in the classroom, and work with classes
to prepare for ‘space missions.’ The curriculum Becerra will oversee will teach
visitors about communication, navigation, rocketry, robotics, equipment needed
for space travel, solar system and beyond, and will showcase the relationship
between the earth and moon. As well, the curriculum will include assignments
that delve into the background information needed to perform the mission at
hand—going to the moon and Mars. “Everything is geared to finishing a mission
and to help the students learn,” said Becerra. “The Center will be for students
of all ages, from zero to 99!”
Becerra’s mission now is to educate
future Star Challengers and their teachers.
Becerra says she is looking forward
to helping teachers get comfortable with teaching science in the classroom, and
wants to get students excited about all of the STEM (science, technology,
engineering and math) fields. But most of all, she is looking forward to seeing
the kids’ faces when they finish a mission.