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As a child, Laura Barber
was convinced she was going to be an astronaut. She studied the stars, planets,
moons and rockets. She slept with pictures of the Challenger crew around her bed.
Even when she watched the shuttle explode in her grade school class, she wasn't
Laura took every class that her tiny rural school could provide and even took 6 am
satellite-based math classes, knowing she was advancing her chances for success
in college. In her sophomore or junior year, she got hold of an astronaut candidate
application. It was the first real sorrow that dashed her dream. It stated that
people applying to the program must be at least five feet, five inches tall and
have nearly perfect eye sight. Laura was prescribed her first pair of glasses when
she was five and at five feet, three inches tall, all the genetics for height went
to her sisters.
"In true teenage girl fashion, I was crushed. Everything I worked for was taken away,"
said Laura. "But with a few reminders from teachers and my parents, I decided to
focus on the science of the mission and not on the space flight so I could still
be involved with space exploration."
She decided to attend Eastern Oregon University to study physics. She intended to
continue her education in Fairbanks, Alaska, to study upper atmospheric physics
and other topics related to the aurora. But life happened. She married her husband
in her junior year and graduated while she was seven months pregnant with their
first child. Alaska would have to wait.
"It took a little while to adjust to a life without academics, but I loved the time
I had with my son and husband," said Laura. "I knew I made the right choice, but
still missed my old dream."
She was given a chance to re-focus when the superintendent of her old high school
was in need of a science teacher with school starting in just a few weeks. She was
granted an emergency teaching license and was given full responsibility for the
middle and high school science classes. Because it was only an emergency credential,
she would need to gain a full teaching license in order to keep her job permanently.
"It was a lucky search that led me to WGU, and I was instantly intrigued by the program
and the fact that I never would have to attend class on a campus," said Laura. "I
was working and had a growing family and needed something I could complete on my
time and at my own pace."
Now having earned a Master's of Arts in Science Education, Laura has taken one step
toward her dream of exploring space, but in a wonderful alternative way. Now, as
a teacher, her most valuable accomplishment has been working with NASA's THEMIS
program. It allows her to help interpret NASA activities and accomplishments and
explain it in ways young schoolchildren can understand.
What the future holds is a mystery. She is working towards a certificate in metrology;
however, just the other day she heard that NASA is accepting applications for the
astronaut candidate program, but with welcome requirement changes. This time, corrective
eye surgeries are acceptable and the new shuttle has adjustable seats.
For more information on this degree, visit our Online Master's of Science Education page or our Online Teaching Degree page.
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