Plano Teacher Takes Part In Exclusive NASA Lift-Off Program

Chris Sommer
August 10, 2018 - 6:33 am
Space Rocket Boosters

© Ndiebold |


PLANO (1080 KRLD) - Teacher Shannon Sparks cannot wait to tell her students what she learned this summer.

Sparks teaches fifth grade at Mendenhall Elementary in Plano. She was one of only 60 teachers nationwide selected for this year's NASA Lift-Off Program. 

Sponsored each year since 1990 by the Texas Space Grant Consortium, the program is a weeklong professional development conference for teachers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects.  Sparks said, "They bring you down to Houston.  You stay at a hotel, and then during the day, you are in the most amazing professional development for science.  You get to meet astronauts and engineers and scientists who work at NASA."

Sparks is in her 16th year with the Plano ISD, the last four spent at Mendenhall Elementary. She hopes her students will get to see the US revitalize its space program. 

"I know they're trying to get out to Mars and back to the moon.  I think all of it is exciting, and I hope we continue to learn more and understand more of what we have out there.  And I hope that we, as adults, do our job of inspiring our youth to go into STEM areas" said Sparks.

Sparks loves science, and she loves space, but says if she ever got the opportunity to be a teacher in space with NASA, she would respectfully decline.  She said, "I get motion sickness, so I will prefer to stand on the ground and watch it from here."  And, with a chuckle, she added, "But kudos to those who would like to go out there!"

During their time at NASA, Sparks and her counterparts got an exclusive tour of the Johnson Space Center.  Her favorite part - standing in Mission Control.