ASK Academy Kirk Hattom
The Ask Academy’s Kirk Hartrom will attend the Space Academy’s program in Huntsville, Ala.

He may not be one in a million, but ASK Academy general manager and principal Kirk Hartom can say he's one in 250.

Hartom is a recent recipient of a scholarship for the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program: Teachers from 27 countries and 47 states will attend the program at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., later this month.

This event is one element of the company's award-winning math and science education initiative. And although he's not a teacher - The ASK Academy calls them "project managers" - he's still hoping to come away with beneficial knowledge.

Hartom, a graduate of Wingate High School and the University of New Mexico, said he'd told the new charter school's "project managers" about this neat opportunity and "they kind of turned it around on me."

He's a longtime fan of the U.S. space program, going back to Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon back in 1969. "I've always immersed myself in astronomy and constellations; on the humanities side, I always loved the mythology," Hartom said. "I hope that I will be able to understand the world of design and technology and the way in which that project matter is taught to help these (ASK Academy) instructors be the best they can be. ... We have to immerse ourselves in the vision of the school."

"I'm very interested in engineering and design, engineering and design challenges, measurements, building lunar stations," he said of what he expects to glean in Huntsville. "The biggest thing for me is it's also leadership. Someone has to lead, have a driver, to take the participants - and how to apply those leadership skills to the academy."

Created in partnership with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in 2004, the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program is designed to help teachers move beyond the standard math and science curriculum with supplemental teaching techniques developed through real-life astronaut training.

"Through the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program teachers are given a unique opportunity to become more effective educators," said Thomas Buckmaster, president of Honeywell Hometown Solutions. "This hands-on learning reinvigorates their lesson plans of science, technology, engineering and math education in classrooms around the globe and enhances their ability to inspire the next generation of leaders."

Honeywell Educators participate in 45 hours of professional development, as well as an intensive educator curriculum focused on space science and exploration.  Activities include classroom, laboratory and field training exercises, which are linked to U.S. science and math teaching standards.  Each teacher will also undergo real-life astronaut training, including a high-performance jet simulation, scenario-based space missions, land and water survival training, and a state-of-the-art flight dynamics programs.

It'll be a like real "final frontier" for Hartom as he approaches middle age.

Hartom wants The ASK Academy students "having that overall feeling you can do and be anything you want in life; getting toward 50, this is another opportunity for me to do those things. ... This'll be the highlight of the summer."

Each Honeywell Educator receives a full scholarship following a rigorous application and selection process involving competing teachers from around the world. Scholarships include tuition for the six-day program, round-trip airfare, meals, accommodations and program materials, all underwritten by Honeywell and contributions from Honeywell employees.

"Honeywell is leading the aerospace industry in (STEM) education through this stellar teachers' program," said Dr. Deborah Barnhart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and former V.P. of Space Exploration for Honeywell. "As Wernher von Braun said, ‘All we can leave our children is what's in their heads.  Education, not material things, is the only legacy no one can take away.'"

Aimed at enhancing its student population in the world of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - The ASK Academy opened its doors last August, first at a church on Golf Course Road, and then at its own two-story building on Sara Road.

Hartom said the inaugural school year was "very good; we got some good marks from the state (education department) ... it's a flagship for charter schools, very well organized."

In fact, Hartom said, probably not to get any disagreement from ASK Academy co-founder Paul Stephenson. "We're like three years down the road already."

The school had only a freshman and sophomore class in 2010-11, and will add a new freshman class when the 2011-12 school year begins. That should bring school enrollment up to about 170, he said. When another freshman class enters the school in the fall of 2012, the following spring will be highlighted by The ASK Academy's first graduating class.

Visit TheASKAcademy.org for more information on the school and how to enroll.

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