Fifth-grade teacher getting astronaut training over the summer

June 05, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Erin Sponaugle, a fifth-grade teacher at Tomahawk Intermediate School in Hedgesville, W.Va., is one of 250 teachers who will participate later this month in the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program in Huntsville, Ala.
By Richard F. Belisle/Staff Writer

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. — Teacher Erin Sponaugle is off again.

This time, she will don a spacesuit for a week of “real-life astronaut training” at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Sponaugle, 29, who teaches fifth grade at Tomahawk Intermediate School, will join 250 teachers from 27 countries who won scholarships to the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program later this month.

The program includes high-performance jet simulation, scenario-based space missions and water-survival training.

“I’ve always been interested in aviation and space, and much of this program will be hands-on,” Sponaugle said.

According to a company news release, the Honeywell program was created in partnership with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in 2004 to “help teachers move beyond the standard math and science curriculum with supplemental teaching techniques developed through real-life astronaut training.”

This won’t be the first time she has taken advantage of an opportunity to participate in educational programs that she brought back to her students.

In 2009, Sponaugle was one of 200 teachers who were awarded scholarships to the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy in New Jersey, a summer math and science camp for third- through fifth-grade teachers.

“I was able to network with teachers from different experiences,” said Sponaugle, who added that the Mickelson academy enabled her to learn from and befriend her peers in education.

Last year, Sponaugle was one of 50 teachers — one from each state — who participated in the Horace Mann-Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Fellowship program in Springfield, Ill. The subjects included the history of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.

Sponaugle also was named a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar at a conference to be held in July in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been teaching for eight years,” she said. “Every one of these programs allows me to bring back what I learn to my students in the classroom. I also hope I’ve amassed enough experience to inspire younger teachers.”

At Tomahawk, she serves as coordinator of the school’s social studies fair, newspaper staff adviser and student council adviser.

Sponaugle is a graduate of Hedgesville High School, earned her bachelor’s degree at Shepherd University and her master’s degree in administration from West Virginia University. She hopes one day to move up to an administrative position.

She and her husband, Brad Sponaugle, who is an assistant treasurer in Berkeley County Schools, live in Martinsburg, W.Va., with their cats.

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