The Weekend Leader - Winning teacher

Indian school teacher chosen for prestigious US space programme



Vol 3 | Issue 4

Over 1,100 students and teachers of the reputed Vidya Valley School here screamed with joy when Vandana Suryawanshi became the first foreign teacher to be chosen for a prestigious US space programme next April. And she herself is already looking forward to sharing the knowledge she gains there with her pupils.

A thrilled Vandana, who teaches at the school, said: "I had submitted a project entitled - 'The effect of atmospheric pressure and gravity on human beings and plants, on earth and in micro-gravity,' which was approved. I got a congratulatory message Jan 24, followed by the announcement this week."

Senior teachers of Vidya Valley School with principal Nalini Sengupta (standing 2nd from left) and Vandana Suryavanshi (standing 3rd from left) - Photo IANS

An excited trustee-principal, Nalini Sengupta, said: "Our biology and earth sciences teacher is the first foreigner and only Indian to be selected for the US-based Space Foundation's National Flight of Teacher Liaison programme."

A non-profit organisation, the Space Foundation encourages and supports space activities, space professionals and education about space.

"Each year, 20 Liaison Teachers are selected based on various criteria and they attend workshops, learn how to teach about space, essentially using the 'thrill of outer space' to teach science," Vandana, 48, explained, adding she would travel to Colorado Springs in mid-April for the training programme.

For the first time in 10 years, the Space Foundation experts panel, comprising experts and military and space, has chosen a teacher from outside the US - Vandana will join 19 American educators who have been selected for their active promotion of space and science education.

The 2012 Teacher Liaisons will also participate in workshops and education programmes at the 28th National Space Symposium, she said.

"After I return, we shall design a special period for students in the secondary section which will incorporate the knowledge and experience gained there," said Vandana, a teacher for over 20 years.

Incidentally, last year Vandana had been selected for a NASA space programme in the US where she was given complete astronaut-style training in a simulated environment.

Sengupta expressed hope that with Vandana's distinction, even the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) would be inspired to consider launching similar programmes to foster the scientific spirit among students and teachers.

Vandana lives in Pune with her husband and two grown-up daughters, both of whom are in the IT industry. - IANS

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