Teacher of the year sends student to space camp

Lorrie Heagy, last year's Alaska teacher of the year, congratulates fourth-grader McKenna Lovejoy during a Glacier Valley Elementary School assembly on Thursday for winning a weeklong scholarship to the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., this summer.

Lorrie Heagy, the 2011 Alaska teacher of the year, had the pleasure picking a student from Glacier Valley Elementary School to attend NASA space camp this summer. She also had the difficult task of selecting only one.


At Glacier Valley’s assembly on the final day of school Thursday, Heagy addressed the students and parents in the gym dressed in a NASA flight suit.

“You are probably wondering why, on the last day of school, I am dressed as an astronaut,” Heagy said to the students.

Heagy’s title of teacher of the year comes with perks beyond the honor. Last July she and the country’s other teachers of the year trained at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

“We were astronauts,” Heagy said. “We got to do all of the things that astronauts do.”

During her astronaut training, Heagy earned the Right Stuff Award. She said it reminded her of Glacier Valley.

“Because who has the right stuff?” Heagy said.

“Glacier Valley,” the students said.

Heagy said the biggest opportunity the experience granted her was the chance to award a scholarship, for the cost of tuition to NASA space camp, to one student from Glacier Valley Elementary School.

“How do we do that? We only have one scholarship and Glacier Valley is a school of very talented students,” Heagy said. Heagy said it was hard to narrow the selection down to only one.

“You know that there are so many deserving students,” Heagy said, “that piece was very difficult.”

Youth attending the week-long space camp can choose from three courses — robotics, aeronautics and space. Heagy said Glacier Valley’s LEGO robotics team, the Robot Bears, were already interested in robotics and team members have shown dedication, arriving early to school to work on their robot.

“We knew that these students were showing up at 7 a.m., and it is a very challenging competitive process, so we thought that it was a natural to offer it to those club members,” Heagy said.

The five members of the Robot Bears wrote essays to compete for the scholarship.

“They were all incredible,” Heagy said. “These five individuals all have the right stuff.”

The team members are Nicole Mannix, Liam Scales, Kallan Stephens, Kylee Watts and the recipient of the scholarship, Makenna Lovejoy.

“She has a big responsibility,” Heagy said. “You are representing a school with the right stuff and you have the right stuff. And that what you learn, you will bring back and share with our school.”

Makenna wrote in her essay about her love of robotics, aviation and space. She was influenced by her grandmother who is a pilot and owns her own airplane.

“I said I wanted to bring as much information back to Glacier Valley and teach the whole school about space,” Lovejoy said. Heagy said Lovejoy’s photos and video of her camp experience could help inspire other students to attend.

Lovejoy signed up for the camp’s aviation course.

“I’m really interested in flight,” Lovejoy said, “and I’m also really interested in survival.” The course teaches students how to survive in difficult environments — a good skill for astronauts or pilots whose craft goes astray.

Does Lovejoy want to be an astronaut?

“No, but it is very interesting,” she said.

A roboticist and survivalist, Lovejoy also showed good writing chops with her winning essay. She also plans to attend fine arts camp soon, where she’s signed up for archery like her favorite book heroine, Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games.

Heagy said she hopes this year’s scholarship opens the door for more students to become interested in and attend space camp.

“We wanted to make sure that whoever received this would make sure that they came back and shared what they learned,” Heagy said.

The Glacier Valley Parent Group is paying for Lovejoy’s flight to Huntsville, Heagy said.

“So again, it is another community effort,” Heagy said. “It’s incredible.”

For more information about space camp, visit http://goo.gl/YyYez.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.


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