Ever since she graduated kindergarten, Mackenzie Klima has dreamed of becoming a teacher. Over the summer, she virtually taught middle schoolers in Salvador, Brazil about her experiences in STEM and working with NASA, and tutored kindergarteners, first, and third graders in reading.
“I’m inspired by anything that challenges me. That rush of the ‘light-bulb’ moment is exhilarating, and STEM provides me those moments regularly. Math and science have never been strengths of mine in the traditional sense. Before I arrived at Iowa State, I didn’t have the confidence to think I could ever succeed in a STEM-related field.”
Klima grew up in Prior Lake, Minnesota and graduated from Prior Lake High School in 2015. She chose to attend Iowa State University because of its Educator Preparation Program. She is double majoring in Spanish and Elementary Education. Klima can speak both Spanish and English and hopes to pair her Spanish and elementary education degrees to teach in a bilingual elementary classroom.
During her time at Iowa State, Klima spent three years as the Educational Outreach Director for PrISUm Solar Car. As Outreach Director, she worked with various organizations and community members to coordinate all outreach events involving the solar car. During the summer of 2018, Klima had an internship at the NASA Ames Research Center as the Aeromechanics Branch Outreach Coordinator for the Mars Helicopter. In the fall of 2019, Klima had an internship at Twin Cities PBS in St. Paul, Minnesota helping develop and research STEM curriculum to align with the new PBS Kids show, “Hero Elementary.”
“I love everything about education, especially teaching English Language Learners and STEM.”
In December of 2017, Klima met Jay Staker at the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Holiday Reception. He encouraged her to apply for the Partner Schools Program and she was accepted and attended the Marshall Space Flight Center Workshop for educators in February 2018. During one lunch with Mr. Staker and the tour guide at Marshall, Klima learned that NASA provided internship opportunities to educators, so she applied. During the summer of 2018, she was able to intern at the NASA Ames Research Center, all thanks to Tomas Gonzalez-Torres, Jay Staker, Carmen Fuchs, and the administrative team at the Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC).
Over the summer, Klima was given the opportunity to speak with two middle school classes at the Colégio Cândido Portinari bilingual program in Salvador, Brazil. Klima was connected to the program by her friend, Daniela Gerbasi Dantas, who is a teacher at Colégio Cândido Portinari.
“Daniela asked if I would be comfortable speaking to her students on Google Meet about my internship at NASA in 2018. I agreed and virtually met with her class of 7th graders on June 12th. Word spread throughout the school and I was given the chance to present to a different class of 8th graders on July 17th.”
While speaking with the students at Portinari, Klima was delighted to discover their curiosity and knowledge of NASA. A few students were huge NASA fans, and were eager to ask her questions about various NASA missions.
“I learned that children’s love for inquiry-based STEM education is universal. ”
This fall, Klima is student-teaching in Houston, Texas. Klima says she will happily incorporate STEM into her lessons whenever possible. She recently purchased the picture book, “Hidden Figures”, by Margot Lee Shetterly, and plans on reading it to her students this fall.
“It is crucial to show students that people who have been able to have exciting STEM opportunities and careers are human. We have made the same mistakes and struggled in the same classes. Our engineering projects have broken. Our science experiments have gone awry. Our math problems are complex. Our code sometimes doesn’t work for weeks on end. Students must see that their roadblocks are universal, and that these goals are still attainable through trial and error. As an educator, it is my honor to work with students as they learn through these processes, and outreach events are an integral piece of STEM education because they can inspire students to persevere through difficult obstacles.”