2008 NASA Einstein Fellow Diedre Adams
Diedre Adams and Suni Williams in front of a T-38 airplane

Science teacher Diedre Adams met astronaut Suni Williams during Adams' 2008-09 Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship at NASA. Image Credit: NASA

Describe your teaching experience before becoming an Einstein Fellow.

I probably had a unique teaching experience. My first six years were for the Army teaching soldiers in the high school completion program in Germany. I moved on to public high school when I returned to the States. I was itinerant then and taught physics and calculus at three different schools daily. When I moved to Indiana, I went into middle school eighth-grade science. I fell in love with the experience. The younger you can catch them, the more influence you have on them. (It's) a perfect place to instill a love of science and math.

Why did the Einstein Fellow Program appeal to you?

Frankly, I think a teacher needs a break from teaching every few years. I got that with my previous moves but had been at the same position for nine years. Teaching is extremely demanding. It is easy for a teacher to burn out. Doing something entirely different gives you a renewed energy and a desire to return to the classroom.

What is your assignment while an Einstein Fellow at NASA?

That is very difficult. It changes daily. I am assigned to the Office of Education at NASA Headquarters. I have worked with multi-agency meetings, reviewed educational materials, written to students who are seeking information from NASA, and contacted dozens of teachers around the U.S. in an effort to match their skills with some of the grant proposals that need to be reviewed. I also do a lot of professional development, attending workshops, seminars and symposiums.

What do you foresee to be your major accomplishment(s) during your fellowship?

For NASA, my major accomplishment will probably be the draft of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) generic request for surveys, etc. Right now, every time a survey or questionnaire needs to be done, a formal request has to be written and approved. If accepted, this generic request will eliminate this paperwork. For my own benefit, I see all of the contacts I have made and information that I have been able to gather for my school as my major accomplishment.

What are your plans for after the fellowship?

I will return to the classroom. Eventually, I would like to help the school corporation (school system) set up and fund a position for a science resource person. That way, all of the teachers in the corporation could benefit from my fellowship.

How has participating in the Einstein Fellowship Program impacted you as an educator?

I have to laugh. Initially, I was going to mention some of the things I have said above. But when I think about it, what I will really take away from here is the feeling of what it is like to be a student! I came in not knowing anything about this office, very similar to a student in a new course. I felt like a fish out of water for a while. I think that remembering that experience will be the best thing I can take back to the classroom. I will not only be able to relate to them, I will be more careful with the way I present information to "newbies." Teachers sometimes assume that the students have more background than they actually do.

Related Resources
Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program   →
NASA Education
Teachers Educating NASA
From Alaska to Antarctica
Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services