In the News: Corpus Christi teacher trained at U.S. space academy now shares his astronaut education

James Falletti, the STEAM and tech integrator at Corpus Christi School in Hasbrouck Heights, beat out more than 1,500 other teachers worldwide to earn one of 200 spots at the Honeywell Educators Space Academy in June 2017 — and with it, the chance to learn from rocket scientists and engineers at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

This year, he had the chance to go back and be a teacher himself. He was one of four teachers from around the world to serve as ambassadors for Honeywell in June 2018.

“We got to go teach in Huntsville,” Falletti said. “It was nice to go and teach teachers from around the world and around the country about the program and how it changed my life and my view on teaching. I gave presentations and got to learn from the advanced educators at the space academy. These were rocket scientists and engineers. I got to be inspired and bring it back.”

Falletti even had the chance to meet Ed Buckbee, the first director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and a NASA employee since 1959.

The three other teachers involved hailed from Romania, Brazil and Massachusetts. Falletti already plans to use those new connections to be more of a global educator.

“I want to show the kids that there is more than just Hasbrouck Heights or New Jersey,” Falletti said. “I’ve been in touch with the other ambassadors to sort of work together globally for the kids.”

Though he has been at Corpus Christi for only a year, Falletti has the full support of Principal Elizabeth Pinto, he said.

She told Falletti she recognized that he had a vision and gave him free rein to do what he wanted with his classroom. So he turned the media center into a “makerspace,” an area that allows for creativity and innovation so students can make real-life connections across disciplines.

“This has really just made the classroom more collaborative,” he said. “You might have one student that is great at drawing and another that’s better at writing, so you can pair them up in small groups and sometimes for larger efforts.”

The room is used for children in Grades pre-K to 8, and Falletti says it lets students incorporate lessons from other classes.

Corpus Christi teacher James Falletti in his classroom

Corpus Christi teacher James Falletti in his classroom (Photo: Katie Sobko/northjersey.com)

While he has been whisked away by NASA to help his fellow teachers, Falletti is more than willing to help at home, too.

 

“There are teachers that know what I did and have heard my story before, so they come to my classroom,” Falletti said. “I can share my curriculum. I have a folder of NASA-inspired materials that I use and will share. I can show them how to create makerspace on the cheap, too.”

Falletti has completed all of the programs that Honeywell has to offer about space science, but he plans to keep learning himself.

He was one of 14 accepted to another workshop about ecology that will be held in Jersey City this month. His acceptance also earned Corpus Christi a $500 grant to use for an ecology awareness program. He also submitted an application for the space conference in Houston.

Though he’s finished the space academy programs, Falletti isn’t done with that, either.

“I’m planning to go to Romania at Christmas and Brazil next summer to work with the other ambassadors,” Falletti said. “There have even been talks of me going to other countries to present on behalf of the Space & Rocket Center, so there are still a lot of opportunities and inspiration.”