Bringing a Global Perspective to NASA
Spending over 30 years working in education systems in both the U.S. and abroad has given Marie Gleason-Tada a broad understanding of the global aspect of education. And her focus on technology and how it can augment lessons in the classroom allows her to work with all subject areas and grade levels. As a 2011-2012 Einstein Fellow, Gleason-Tada is bringing her unique insight to NASA.
Describe your teaching experience before becoming an Einstein Fellow.
I have extensive experience as an educator in both the United States and overseas. I taught at nearly all grade levels as a classroom teacher at international schools in Japan that incorporated elements of both the American and British educational systems. When computers made their debut in the schools in the 1980s, I pursued an advanced degree in instructional technology and moved from classroom teaching to establishing programs for technology integration in the K-12 curriculum. Since returning from Japan in 1996, I have pursued that role in the Chelmsford, Mass., public schools. As a technology integration specialist, I have the opportunity to work with teachers in all subject areas as they plan for ways to use technology in their lessons.
Why did the Einstein Fellowship Program appeal to you?
I was introduced to the program while engaged in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Teachers grant. I felt that the opportunity to combine research with actual work in a government agency for nearly a year would be an enormously interesting and exciting experience. I was right! I wanted to increase my knowledge of STEM education policymaking and introduce my school district to opportunities for teachers and students. I also was eager to step out of the classroom and be immersed in a totally different experience that would involve education but also the opportunity to be part of a very large government agency. The fellowship year at NASA is providing me with a variety of refreshing, exciting opportunities to reach these goals.
How will participating in the Einstein Fellowship Program affect you as an educator?
I am nearing the midway mark in my fellowship and can say definitively that the unique combination of the fellowship and work at NASA has already had a strong impact. Both the fellowship and NASA have as their goal my growth as an educator. I have the opportunity to interact with amazing Fellows from around the country and participate in activities and programs that the fellowship organizes, such as visits to government agencies (Library of Congress, National Academy of the Sciences, American Institute of Physics, and the National Institutes for Health, to name just a few) where we engage in high-quality programs designed to expand our knowledge of resources offered to K-12 educators. My sponsor in the Office of Education at NASA has introduced me to amazingly diverse people, activities and programs that increase my knowledge and perspective and also allow me to contribute insights from my long experience in K-12 education and, in particular, middle school education. In addition, I am given the resources to attend and present at conferences, institutes, meetings and events across the country. It has been a whirlwind of activity that I am fortunate to be able to document through a blog
on the Chelmsford, Mass., school district website, giving the community a look at my experience along the way!
Many organizations participate in the Einstein Fellowship Program. What are the advantages of being at NASA?
My first interview for the Einstein Fellowship was with NASA. I knew immediately that being assigned to NASA Headquarters' Office of Education would be the most "awesome" opportunity imaginable. My interest in space exploration started with the earliest days of the space program. I knew that NASA has so much to offer educators and students as I had facilitated our Grade 8 participation in EarthKAM, allowing our earth science students to request pictures of Earth from space. As NASA Headquarters administers and coordinates programs and activities across all NASA centers, I have been able to observe and learn from the teamwork and collaboration that goes into effective decision making. This will be helpful knowledge while engaging in leadership positions in education. I am exposed daily to a culture of inquiry that involves engaging in real science while also endeavoring to inspire the next generation of explorers through meaningful and exciting educational programs and resources. NASA provides an experience rich with the wonder of exploration that stimulates ideas and ignites the imagination. Being at NASA for 11 months gives me the valuable opportunity to research, experience and compile NASA resources for educator and student use.
What facets of education do you hope to help the government better understand?
Einstein Fellows are required to be K-12 educators with at least five years of current teaching experience. Every day in the public schools, I work with dedicated teachers doing an excellent job while dealing with current challenges such as standards-based curriculum, data-driven decision-making, and the social and emotional challenges that students face regarding social networking and other technological innovations. I hope to emphasize that the quest for higher student achievement needs to be more than doing well on tests and must focus on educating the whole child in knowledge and skills needed for being responsible and productive in society and in the workplace. The greatest gift we can give our students is the chance to ask questions limited only by imagination and have the support and resources available to pursue answers in creative, involving ways. Our government needs to show both respect and appreciation for education by providing resources that promote and encourage learners and educators.
In what ways have you been able to offer any practical insight to government staff about establishing and operating education programs?
As I am at NASA for only a year, I believe that I will be spending more time learning about programs than developing them. However, I am given many opportunities to sit in on meetings, and I am encouraged to give input on educational matters such as the practical issues facing busy teachers, issues of security and privacy, and the impact in recent years of compliance with standards and data-driven decision-making.
Tell us about an exciting or interesting activity that you’ve been involved in during your fellowship at NASA.
It’s hard to narrow it down to only a couple! Being involved with LEGO Denmark in developing educational materials to accompany a LEGO Mindstorms robotics unit was an interesting and exciting endeavor. Also, it was thrilling to go to the November launch of the Mars Science Laboratory (also known as the Curiosity rover) at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and the accompanying Mars Educators Conference with amazing speakers and participants.
Tell us about your experience teaching overseas and how it supports your assignment at NASA.
Living and teaching in Japan for over 20 years has given me a global outlook on education and the need for students and educators to have a vision of life and education that reflects the interconnected world we live in. My experience with the American, British and Japanese education systems has been helpful while exploring projects that span nations -- such as NASA’s Space Act Agreement with LEGO.
› Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program →
› NASA Education
› More Profiles of Einstein Fellows
Mindi Capp/NASA Educational Technology Services