Brian Grigsby, a Shasta High School science teacher, says he has always been fascinated by the world around him, and what makes it work.
It’s this sense of curiosity and wonder that lead Grigsby to teach Earth Science, Physical Science and Biology from 1993 to 2000. In 2008, after several opportunities in his field outside the classroom, Grigsby returned to the north state, and to teaching. And it’s for his accomplishments as an educator that he’ll be honored next month.
Grigsby, Shasta High School’s Earth Science and Space Science and Engineering teacher, will be honored with the National Space Club’s Space Educator’s Award, an honor bestowed on educators who inspire, educate and develop the next generation of students in space science.
I spoke to Grigsby about his accomplishments, his inspirations as a teacher and the award.
Congratulations, Brian. How were you nominated for this award?
There was an announcement put out by the National Space Club for applicants for the award and I decided to apply knowing it was a national award program. I had to get letters of recommendation from professionals and one from a former student that I helped or advised in the area of space science. The selection process was done by a panel of experts and space science professionals. They looked at the letters, professional background of the applicant, and a statement I had to write about my interest and involvement in science teaching.
Tell me what inspired you to be a science teacher.
I have always enjoyed understanding how things work and would take things apart as a kid to see what made them tick. I was amazed at how complex machines could do what they do. During my freshmen year in high school I had an amazing science teacher that really made science come alive. I still have my freshman Earth Science notes to this day; I enjoyed it so much. I had the same experience during my sophomore year in high school with my biology teacher. This is where I really knew that science was for me.
During my time in college, I originally wanted to study Marine Biology. But during my vacation time from college, I would go and work with elementary students in my sister’s 3rd grade classroom. I really enjoyed teaching the kids. I then shifted my focus to earn my degree in Life Science with and emphasis in teaching.
What were the criteria for winning the award?
The award has been created to recognize the importance of the secondary school teacher in motivating and guiding high school students towards study and careers in space science and technology. The award is also designed to enhance and support Educator participants in NASA Educational Programs by honoring a teacher who has advised and helped students toward space careers through participation in competitions.
Tell us about your professional experiences outside the classroom.
In the fall of 2000, I jumped at an opportunity to be the director of the Schreder Planetarium. I also worked with hundreds of other teachers conducting science professional development and be a part of a NASA expedition to the Licancabur Volcano in Chile. I documented the travels of the team through video, photographed and facilitated a Q & A with students back in the US and the scientists conducting research. The scientists were studying how certain microorganisms can survive atop the 20,000 foot Licancabur Volcano where there was a lake at the summit. We all climbed the summit to take water samples and document the environment. It was called a “Virtual Field Trip” and it really opened my eyes to the world of true science.
In 2005, I was asked to develop the distance learning program at Arizona State University with the Mars Education Program. During my time at ASU, I developed distance learning programs, conducted workshops and lead professional development programs for teachers around the US about Mars Exploration.
What subject areas do you cover in space science?
Space science can be connected to every other science. With my Space Science and Engineering class, I am constantly connecting space exploration and engineering with what they are currently working on. This method allows students to really see the projects they work on and how they are related to even larger engineering projects, including space exploration. We cover space science in Earth science as well, but it is covered as a separate unit. Nonetheless I enjoy bringing students from all levels into the fascinating world of space. Anyone can relate to it.
Do you have students who may continue to pursue this area of science?
Absolutely. I have been teaching the Space Science and Engineering class for 3 years now, and from those students that have gone through my class I have had several go on to study engineering at the college level, with one student deciding to study Astrophysics.
What does this award means to you?
It means a lot to me. I really enjoy teaching today’s students about the wonders of space exploration and how it affects their lives, so to be honored by the National Space Club is amazing. I know I am a part of an amazing group of educators that have received the award in the past including a couple of current astronauts.
The awards dinner is a black tie affair. Do you have a tuxedo?
Nope. I have never needed to have one on hand until now. I’ll rent one when I get there.
Grigsby will be honored at the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner, the major event of the Washington space calendar, first celebrated in 1958. Held each year in late March or early April, near the anniversary of the first successful flight by Dr. Goddard of a liquid-fueled rocket, it brings together nearly 2,000 members of the government, industry and educational space community.
Awards are presented to a number of outstanding individuals for accomplishments in spaceflight, engineering, science, management and education. For more information about the National Space Club and the Space Educators Award, visit spaceclub.org.