When Teacher Education and STEM Collide


Billy Hix, NASA Consultant

Nationally, according to the National Science Foundation, African-Americans comprise just three percent of all American scientists and engineers, with Hispanics making up four percent of the total. The numbers are equally dismal among minority women with one out-of-every 10 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professionals fitting the demographic. Learn strategies to encourage your pre-service teacher education students to enjoy science so that they may inspire their students to become the next generation of scientists.

Billy Hix’s varied work experiences with the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), the Space Foundation, the Tennessee State Department of Education (TSDE), and Public Broadcasting give him a unique viewpoint on the important task of making all students and classroom teachers STEM literate. Mr. Hix grew up in a high-poverty, rural area and understands first-hand the many students who were left behind simply due to the environment they had to experience.  During his presentation, he will provide successful strategies to retain and recruit students into the STEM teaching field.

Hix describes himself as a country boy who has always had an eye on the sky. His curiosity turned into a thirst for knowledge and his love of science and space led him to become a professor of Education and the director of the STEM program at Motlow College and a consultant for NASA. He inspires other teachers, pre-service teachers, and students to learn the beauty of science, not by just learning the facts, but by hands-on inquiry methods.

Soon after Hix began teaching at Motlow, he started working with teachers and students in area middle and high schools. Since 1984, he has been conducting science professional development programs for teachers. He is known for organizing star parties to explain the wonders of astronomy. He is an avid supporter of STEM education and has worked with NASA for many years developing teaching curriculum for space education.

Along with school visits and numerous teacher professional development programs during the school year, Hix conducts STEM camps for students during his summer months. These camps have become a model for other camps sponsored by the TSDE. During the past school year, Hix visited over 70 schools and conducted programs with over 10,000 students and teachers.

Hix worked for NASA between 1997 and 2007 as a faculty fellow at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and currently serves NASA in an advisory role. He has filmed many educational TV shows featuring education and STEM.

His recent tributes include the 2014 Master Outreach Award from the American Astronomical Society, 2013 Teacher Liaison of the Year from the Space Foundation, 2012 Higher Education Science Educator of the year from the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and being selected as a faculty fellow with NASA. His work has been featured in Astronomy and Sky’s Up magazines, PBS TV, and he was the “centerfold” for an issue of the Reflector magazine. 

Rafe Esquith, 2014 keynote speaker for the NACCTEP national conference.

Esquith has taught fifth graders at a public school in a Los Angeles neighborhood plagued by guns, gangs, and violence. His exceptional classroom at Hobart Elementary—known simply as Room 56—is unlike any other in the country. He's also written four books, with his most recent being the critically acclaimed Real Talk for Real Teachers, published in 2013. His other books include Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire, There Are No Shortcuts, and Lighting Their Fires.

Casey Johnson the 2013-14 NACCTEP Scholarship recipient thank the membership for his award during the 2014 NACCTEP national conference.

Casey attended Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona. He hopes to work at a junior high school teaching math while he works on his master’s degree. Math is his passion. It challenges him and requires him to push himself to think more and take different approaches on things.