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Erin McKinley - A Star Before and Behind the Camera
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Teacher and NASA Television star Erin McKinley is an enthusiastic, eternal learner.

Name: Erin McKinley
Title: Educational Specialist for NASA’s Digital Learning Network
Organization: Code 160, Office of Education, Office of the Director
Years at Goddard: 3
Years in Current Position: 3

What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard? How do you help support Goddard’s mission?

I teach teachers and students in grades kindergarten through 12 using NASA’s Digital Learning Network, which is our distance learning network. The DLN provides quality educational content to teachers and students across the country via videoconferencing technologies. Our content covers science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I recently developed a series of lessons for kindergarten through second grade that we call “My Big Book About Space.” I also provide educators with professional development content. What is most exciting to me is learning about all the scientific discoveries that NASA makes every day and sharing this information through our learning network.

What makes a good teacher? What makes a good student?

Erin McKinley at a Digital Learning Network event at Goddard.› Larger image
Photo of Erin McKinley during one of the Digital Learning Network programs at Goddard. Credit: NASA
To quote author Gail Godwin, “Good teaching is one-quarter preparation and three-quarters theater.” In addition, both a good teacher and a good student never stop learning because they have a passion for learning. Both are enthusiastic, eternal learners.

What is unique about you?

For the first three weeks of my undergraduate work, I was an aerospace engineering major. Then I realized that, although engineering would have helped me achieve my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, I preferred teaching. I have always been a teacher. Growing up, I coached sports, helped my little sister with her homework, and tutored classmates. Teaching found me.

What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done at Goddard?

Last year, I was on NASA television as the host of Goddard’s “Beautiful Earth” program in honor of Earth Day. This was my first time on NASA television and it was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. And I loved it!

Erin McKinley and her horse, Ghost, win a blue ribbon.› Larger image
Erin and Ghost win a blue ribbon in a jumping event at the National Capital Adult Equitation League's Finale Horse Show. Photo courtesy of E. McKinley

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I like seeing the look in a student’s eyes when the flash bulb goes on and they have understood the concept.

If you weren’t in your current profession, what would you be doing?

I would be an astronaut. In fact, I actually applied to the astronaut program but was not accepted. I plan to reapply one day. Alternatively, I would be a sports broadcaster because I love sports and now feel very comfortable on camera.

Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests or activities outside of work that people do not generally know?

I ride hunter jumpers, which is horseback riding based on the English tradition of foxhunting and involves jumps and turns of the sort found in the English countryside. I started riding horses when I was nine years old and, after a 15-year hiatus, recently resumed because I realized how much I missed flying over jumps. This past winter, I joined a team at my stable. On March 17, 2013, my teammates and I competed in the National Capital Adult Equitation League's finale horse show.
I rode Ghost, and, to my surprise and delight, we won the blue ribbon in our jumping event! It was so much fun riding at various stables around the Capital area and winning ribbons!

What do you do to relax or have fun?

I don’t have a lot of spare time because I am working on a master’s degree in curriculum and instructional technology, but I love all sports.

Where is your favorite place in the entire world and why?

I really enjoy Italy. Last year my boyfriend and I visited Rome, Venice and other cities in northern Italy. It was difficult for us to pick a favorite place because they were all absolutely beautiful!

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Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD