Space Center to Space Camp, Utah Teacher of the Year awards scholarship

As Utah Teacher of the Year, Gay Beck was given an opportunity to go to Space Camp last month. There she picked up some new teaching tools: units on going to the moon, gliders and the solar system. She found she has a knack for building bottle rockets (her rocket went the highest of all the teachers attending) and a newfound love of everything “space.” But what really made her excited about the experience was what Space Camp allowed her to give away: a week’s free tuition to a Utah student.

Utah Teacher of the Year Gay Beck_Space Camp Scholarship

Utah Teacher of the Year Gay Beck recounts her experiences at Space Camp to her colleagues at Highland Elementary School (Alpine District).

“I just think there is so much good will for educators to pass on the magic of Space Camp,” said Beck, donned in the camp’s official coveralls, with the wings she earned at the camp proudly displayed.

This morning, Provo High School senior Tyler Gardner was surprised to learn he’d been selected by Beck. Thinking he was going to make a presentation to Beck’s Highland Elementary School staff about the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center programs, he instead learned he was soon heading to Space Camp.

“Especially with a student like Tyler, who already has such a passion for space, it is a great opportunity,” Beck said.

Space Camp won’t be alien for this American Fork teen. Gardener’s been involved in Alpine School District’s Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center for four years. He began as  a volunteer, and now is a computer programmer that makes possible the simulated space adventures the Center offers all of Alpine’s fifth and sixth graders. Space is also in his future. He has already been excepted to attend Utah State University, where he plans on studying aeronautic engineering.

2011 Utah Teacher of the Year_Space Camp Scholarship Awarded

Beck surprises Provo High School senior Tyler Gardener with the scholarship to Space Camp.

“Ever since I was little, I grew up around technology and was interested in science. And space is really the last and final frontier,” he said. “Because of that, it holds so much that needs to be explored. There is so much to learn and that’s so exciting to me.”

Gardner credits the McAuliffe Center as being a significant influence in his interest in space, computers and aeronautics. Going to school in the Provo District, where his mother teaches, he says he heard about the Center from friends in the Alpine District, but didn’t have an opportunity to go himself. Eventually, though, his family found a way to arrange for him to attend an overnight camp.

“The first time I stepped in the simulator, it was so much more than I ever expected. I was in awe, just being there,” he explained. “Being in that environment gave me the drive to follow my passion for science and space. And being a volunteer there has taught me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”

His mother, Kim Gardner, teaches fifth and sixth graders in the Provo District’s dual immersion program. That means she teaches a unit each year on space, which is in the sixth grade core curriculum. It also happens to be one of her favorite units to teach.

“Oh my gosh, this is an opportunity of a lifetime! I’m a little jealous, actually,” she joked. “Tyler is a good, hard working, deserving kid. I’m amazed and thoroughly excited for him.”

2011 Teacher of the Year_Space Camp Scholarship Group Photo

Beck poses with Space Camp scholarship recipient Tyler Gardener and his parents Jeff and Kim Gardener.

Tyler’s father, Jeff Gardner, said he’s excited for his son to have ths opportunity.

“It’ll be a great learning experience. It’s sad that NASA is cutting back, knowing my son’s interests, but maybe he’ll be one of the entrepreneurs that step in and lead the way forward.”

Of the McAuliffe Center, Tyler’s father says it offers students a great opportunity to broaden their minds and go to places they never thought they’d go.

“It’s a great opportunity to imagine where they can go and who they can become,” he said.

In fact, Tyler Gardner says that’s the nickname the director of the center likes to call it: The Imaginarium.

Learn more about the Alpine School District’s Chirsta McCullough Space Education Center on its website and blog, “The Troubadour.” More on the Utah Teacher of the Year program is available on the Utah State Office of Education website.

The Teacher of the Year is announced each October. Winning teachers are entered into a national Teacher of the Year contest and given the opportunity to go to Washington D.C., where they meet the President, Vice President and Utah’s Senators and Congressmen. They attend Space Camp, where they are offered a scholarship to give away. They also receive a University of Pheonix “Teach it Forward” Scholarship to give away.

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2 comments to Space Center to Space Camp, Utah Teacher of the Year awards scholarship

  • LuJean Weber

    I’ve heard so much about “Space Camp” from my grandchildren. Is the camp open to the public? If so, what is the entrance fee and I’m also curious about the age limit. Is there another site I could visit to find out all these details? I would like to get all my grandchildren there at the same time (14) is that possible. I hope I have the right “Space Camp”. I understand it is located in the Old Manila Church.
    Thank You, LuJean