PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A local science teacher is one of a few dozen across the country chosen for the NASA Space Educator Program.

She’s learned about space from the men and women who have been there themselves, sharing what they’ve learned to inspire future scientists.

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Debbie Reynolds teaches at Harrison Middle School in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District.

She runs a special class featuring the IKS Highlander Space Mission OPS Simulator. It brings the concepts students have read about in the textbooks to life.

“I think that’s the most important thing about education, you can’t just teach students facts, you have to make those connections,” Reynolds said.

That desire to do more prompted Reynolds to apply for the Nationwide Space Educators Conference in Houston, Texas.

She was one of only 36 science teachers across the country to be selected.

In February, she learned from NASA scientists firsthand how to motivate the new generation of aerospace and technology experts.

“I keep telling them that you might be the next person that goes up into space,” Reynolds said.

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The goal: To challenge students to use science, technology, engineering and math in a practical, real world ways.

“I hope that I would be exciting to them. I try to make my lessons exciting. I try to show them all the new things that are going on,” Reynolds said.

Malcom Jenkins, a Harrison Middle School Student, says Reynolds has done just that.

“She’s really made a big effect on the school so far in my opinion and she’s brought the STEM program, which is new this year, and she’s brought a lot of different opportunities for the school,” Jenkins said.

Reynolds hopes that her enthusiasm spreads to both young boys and girls and that even if their future isn’t in the sciences, that her experiences have brought motivation to them in some way.

“All of the things that I’m learning I want to bring that back to my classroom and share that with them. Even if they take one little tidbit and that stays with them. I just want to expose kids to as many opportunities as I can,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds’ work with space continues, as she’s set to watch the Cygnus Spacecraft Launch in Orlando, Florida next Monday.

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