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Bringing Space to the Classroom

Mike Schmidt

Math Teacher, University High School (Tucson)

Pathfinder Astronaut, 2009

2000 BS in Education


A graduate of the College of Education, Tucson high school math teacher Mike Schmidt was named one of the first seven Pathfinder Astronauts, part of the Teachers in Space program. "I look back on my undergraduate experience at NAU as the most important and influential time in my development as a teacher," he says.

Schmidt teaches math at University High School in Tucson and was recently named one of the first seven Pathfinder Astronauts, part of the Teachers in Space program. This proud and adventurous career began with the training he received at Northern Arizona University.

A graduate of the College of Education, Schmidt was also a theater major. "I look back on my undergraduate experience at NAU as the most important and influential time in my development as a teacher. I utilize the theories and concepts from my education classes and the practical applications learned from my methods classes on a daily basis."

He feels that some of his success as a teacher comes from his professors. "I was blessed to have a very wide range of professors with backgrounds and experiences from multiple academic environments." His student teaching was a way for him to stretch his interests. "Through NAU, I was able to complete my student teaching experience in Germany at a Department of Defense Dependent School. I treasure my student teaching in a way that few teachers do.

Within ten years of graduating from NAU, he was named the Flagstaff area Wal-Mart teacher of the year (2002), a Flinn foundation honored educator (2005), and most recently, honored as one of the first Teachers in Space. As part of this program, he is designing the curriculum that will be used in the future to help prepare the thousands of teachers who will be participating in sub-orbital educational flights. He is among a small group of "Pathfinders" who will lead the way for the large numbers of astronaut teachers who follow. These Pathfinders will be the first astronaut teachers to fly in space and return to the classroom.

He is at the cutting edge of a shift in the way that teachers teach math and science and how students learn. "I have already seen the way that my own training experiences have helped my students find a renewed interest in math and science. As the program grows to send two hundred teachers into space each year, this excitement will be shared with many teachers and multitudes of students."

Schmidt believes his education at NAU was an important catalyst for his future career. "I look back at my time at NAU as the critical first step that prepared me for this indescribably amazing journey."