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Washington State University

Alumni adventures with NASA and in Africa

Cheryl Fredericks at Mission Control
Cheryl Fredericks at Mission Control

Two of our 2011 graduates returned to the WSU Pullman campus recently to talk with Assistant Professor Jo Olson’s students about their experiences at the NASA Pre-service Teacher Institute.  Cheryl Fredericks of Missoula and Kristin White of Pullman both attended the week-long summer workshop at Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA’s goal is to expose the future teachers  to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) enrichment activities for their classroom.

“We spent the week talking to scientists, engineers, and education specialists from NASA about how to better incorporate STEM fields into our future classrooms,” said Cheryl, who graduated in December and is now substitute teaching. “We also got our own private tour of the space center and had the opportunity to explore and work with elementary-age children at Space Center Houston, the visitor’s center there.  We spent a few of our days participating in hands-on activities and networking with other pre-service teachers.  It was one of the most amazing opportunities and I received a full suitcase of lesson plans and materials throughout the program to use in a future classroom.”

Future teachers with their eyes on a stellar math- and science-related career might want to check out the program’s website.

A second journey to South Sudan

Janet Finke (’75) could relate to those young alums’ zeal for adventure.

Now an associate professor at Central Washington University, Janet Finke has joined two other CWU faculty members, Judy and Phil Backlund, on a second trip to South Sudan. They visited the country last year to train teachers, and left this week to work with more teachers. They will visit an orphanage in Juba to distribute the books and clothing donated by Ellensburg Rotarians, and train teachers at a girls school in Akon.

WSU alum Janet Finke
Janet Finke talks about South Sudan

South Sudan gained its independence in July 2011 after a long-running civil war. The adult literacy rate is 27 percent, and 63 percent of the population above the age of 6 has never attended school, according to a U.S. State Department fact sheet.

Finke said the people of South Sudan are hungry for education.

“The teachers we worked with last year cared so much about children in the villages, and they have a heart to make a difference,” Finke told the Ellensburg Daily Record. “They want so much for the children, and they’ve lacked it because they’ve been so focused on survival.” The trio was also interviewed by KAPP TV.

In a note to the college, Janet wrote that “It is an amazing privilege and incredible challenge to be making a difference in the lives of teachers and children here in Washington State and in South Sudan.”  She also expressed thanks for all she earned from her WSU professors and the support she received during her student teaching experience in a Richland first grade classroom, where she was supervised by Deanne McCullough.

This news about Janet is also posted on the Washington State Magazine’s alumni blog, where recent education news includes Timothy Yeomans’ appointment as superintendent of Puyallup public schools and Jeanett Castellanos’ receipt of the Outstanding Support of Hispanic Issues in Higher Education Award.