This week, NASA’s Johnson Space Center reflects on how simple—but, nevertheless, how important—a thank you can be. NASA is made up of a multitude of people, all with different histories and skillsets. In addition to the unifying mission of advancing human space exploration, engineers, scientists, artists and astronauts have at least one more thing in common: teachers along the way have helped them reach new heights in their chosen careers.
I went to school at the University of Houston to study geology because I had a love for being outdoors and learning about the processes that created the world that we live in. I took a class called Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, which was taught by Dr. Alan Brandon. This class was an introduction to how meteorite study could reveal the formation of asteroids and planets. Dr. Brandon saw potential in me and fostered the skills I use at NASA today.
I will always be thankful for their help and guidance, which led me to the career that I have now.
Then and now: Rachel Funk appreciating the outdoors with her family (left), and today working in Johnson Space Center’s Meteorite Lab (right).
Computer Engineer and former PLUTO Flight Controller
Mr. Stephens, my science teacher, created Model Rocket Day. The fifth and sixth graders were provided with a model rocket kit, and we all got to launch our rockets for a full day. I already loved space and rockets, and this experience reinforced my appreciation for rocketry. Later, in high school, Ms. Loos, Mr. Monnier and Mr. Stephanopoulos reinforced my fondness of chemistry, physics, rocketry—and added computer science. NASA was the perfect match for the intersection of these passions. I am now lucky enough to have worked in mission control as a certified flight controller and as a computer engineer here at JSC.
Thank you Mr. Stephens, Ms. Loos, Mr. Monnier and Mr. Stephanopoulos. You helped inspire me to be where I am and passionate about what I do.
Then and now: Andrew Rechenberg on console at mission control (left), and with his mother as a toddler (right).
I’ve had a lot great teachers in my life, but the one who stands out the most is Steve Kane, my instructor at Full Sail University. Steve saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and pushed me to work harder than I’ve ever worked before. No matter how big or small the problem was, he was always willing to help in any way he could, and he still helps me today.
Thank you to all the amazing teachers I’ve had, and thank you again, Steve Kane, for always being there.
Then and now: Alexandria Perryman at band practice (left), and Perryman in the audio suite today (right).
Gabrielle C. Cole
Operational Psychology Coordinator
The most influential educator during my school years was my drill team coach, Mrs. Judy Dunn. Mrs. Dunn taught me so many valuable lessons that have continued to guide me throughout my career and life. I most admired her dedication to our team and the high expectations she held for us both individually and as a group. She invested in each of us, teaching us to how to form a strong team. This, along with the discipline and perseverance she instilled, prepared me well for my next stop, which would be a career in the U.S. Air Force. In the Air Force, I was assigned to the medical field in a “caregiving” position, which directly influenced me to continue my education in psychology. That military experience and education in psychology absolutely set me on the path to working at NASA as an Operational Psychology Coordinator.
My Air Force career experience led me to my rewarding career at NASA, and both are directly attributed to the influence of one of my first mentors in high school, Mrs. Judy Dunn.
Then and now: Gabrielle Cole preparing a Christmas care package for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (left), and Cole in her Air Force uniform (center).
One teacher who inspired me to become a web developer was my computer science teacher in high school, Mr. Snow. What really made him stand out from all the other teachers was he was so passionate about what he was teaching. To be able to design and develop something with just lines of code sounds boring to most people, but I was hooked.
I can say he was the main reason I am a web developer today.
Then and now: Michael Wong at his workspace (left), and with his grandmother at his high school graduation (right).
Communications Strategist/Graphic Designer
While I was working toward my undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, I had three professors—Anne Henry, Leo Chan and Stuart Larson—who were very instrumental in helping me find the passion I have for graphic design today. By taking their classes in different aspects of visual communications, I fell in love with every facet of design—from color theory to typography to composition.
I will forever be indebted to these professors for helping me find my passion and giving me the tools needed to excel at my job at NASA.
Then and now: Victoria Ugalde’s drawing from grade school (left), and Ugalde today (right).
The greatest advice I ever received from a teacher was from Alice Buckley. She used to say, “You can be whatever you want to be, but you can make your changes. It’s OK to become something new. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Be whatever you want to be … you don’t have to stick with that, you can always change.”
Then and now: Lou Moss in her army uniform when she was 20 (left), and Moss at work today (right).
We asked Ricky Arnold during a downlink from the International Space Station, “Of all your professions, which has been the most challenging?”
He said, “They have all been challenging in their own ways, but being a teacher was the most challenging I have had. I think it is the most important job that someone can do. Make sure you thank your teachers each and every day for all their dedication and hard work.”
Then and now: Ricky Arnold in the space station’s cupola (left), and Arnold answering student questions during an education downlink with Brookwood Elementary School.
This week kicks off National Teacher Appreciation week. Show your appreciation by thanking a teacher you know on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #ThankATeacher. Be sure to tag your favorite NASA social media accounts to help us show how important teachers are in our mission to inspire the next generation of explorers!
NASA Johnson Space Center