From Teaching to LiftOff - RPS Teacher Heads to NASA This Summer
Rochester Public Schools

The skillsets of our educators are out of this world and continue to amaze us. One teacher, in particular, has a love for space and this year has the privilege of going to Texas this summer in a selective space program developed by NASA!


Melissa Erickson is a Physics, Earth, and Planetary Science teacher at John Marshall High School and was selected to attend LiftOff 2022 program out of the University of Texas. LiftOff is a weeklong professional development training for educators put on by NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium. It is an aerospace workshop emphasizing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

There is also a hope that teachers can develop lessons from this program to take to their home school districts to teach in class. Out of the 200 educators who applied, 52 were selected, including Melissa and one other teacher from Minnesota, the first two Minnesotans ever to attend this program.

Melissa has always loved astronomy and stargazing and is a self-proclaimed “science nerd.” Melissa’s niece, Courtney, is a science teacher in Arkansas and knowing about her aunt’s love for the stars, told her about this program and encouraged her to apply. Melissa is not only accepted into this program, but the Minnesota Space Consortium is also sponsoring her whole trip as the program is not free for out-of-state educators.

“I applied for this program because I want to help my students connect to the material,” Melissa said. “The best compliment I can receive is a student telling me that they have a new passion for what they are learning in my class.”

This year, NASA has their selected teachers help them work on their Artemis project from June 26th to July 1st, which aims to send American astronauts, including the first woman and the first person of color, to the Moon by 2024.

Melissa hopes that this program will touch on things in Physics, meteorology, and radio communication as she has new project ideas in store for her students next year. We look forward to connecting with Melissa after she returns in July to hear about her experience!