To infinity and beyond!

Mindy Kearns Special to The Register

May 31, 2014

NEW HAVEN — If students in Rhonda Tennant’s classroom at New Haven Elementary School call her a little “spaced out” these days, the fourth-grade teacher doesn’t mind at all.

Tennant was chosen as one of 210 teachers from all 50 states and 49 countries to attend the all-expense-paid “Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy” program. Held at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., the local teacher will attend the second of two sessions, going from June 18-24.

Designed to teach educators new and innovative techniques to reach students in the areas of science and math, the program offers 45 hours of classroom, laboratory and training time. All lessons and activities align with National Science and Math Standards and are ready to use in the classroom.

Teachers will be busy from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. As part of the curriculum, the group will build space stations and rockets that they will later launch. Tennant said she will experience training similar to that which astronauts undergo at NASA, including weightlessness as on the moon, and simulated shuttle launch into the ocean with a helicopter rescue.

“When my husband first heard the news, he was worried that I might not be able to keep up with all the physical demands of the camp,” she said. “We had to sign a waiver acknowledging that the activities would be physically demanding and that we were physically fit.”

The teacher laughed as she added, “I hope I didn’t lie. But just to be on the safe side, I’m exercising daily and trying to lose a few pounds. I want to represent our state well.”

While excited for her own adventure, Tennant is keeping her students in mind, too. She said the children are most excited about the upcoming announcement of the guest astronaut who will attend, along with other special guests from the “space community.”

“I’ve heard that there is a space camp for students, and while I’m there I want to find out how some of our students can get the opportunity to attend,” she said. “What a great opportunity it would be for them.”

As a longtime teacher, unique opportunities are nothing new to Tennant.

“I have been very blessed to have had a long and exciting career as an educator,” she said. “I have taught in the classrooms of Japan, shaken hands with the world renowned Michael Jordan, and been selected as ‘Teacher of the Year’ by West Virginia veterans. Now I get to study at NASA’s space camp with teachers from all over the world. How blessed can one teacher get?”