Shepherdstown Middle School English teacher Marianne Tomasic likes to make her summer vacations count by having unique experiences she can take back into her classroom.
And that was especially true this year, when she had the field trip of a lifetime attending astronaut training camp.
Tomasic, one of only three teachers selected for this honor who don't teach math or science, was chosen to participate in summer training at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
In June, she joined approximately 200 teachers - including some who'd come from abroad - to take part in the same type of training used for NASA astronauts, including high-performance jet simulation, land and water survival, interactive flight dynamics programs and scenario-based space missions.
It's part of a "concentrated effort to bring science to life in local classrooms" and is sponsored by Honeywell Educators@Space Academy, according to corporate spokesperson Amy Sharman.
Now in its 10th year, more than 1,900 educators - including teachers from 49 counties and all 50 states - have graduated from this program, she said.
It was truly an out-of-the world experience, Tomasic said, smiling as she recalled more than one time at camp when she'd unabashedly "giggled like a child" as the new experiences overtook her.
"What can I say? I really loved it. This whole anti-gravity thing is different, but I liked getting used to the feeling of floating around in space," she said.
A Martinsburg resident with 20 years of teaching, including 17 years full-time, Tomasic is relatively new to the middle school level after having been a high school teacher - covering a variety of journalism and English classes.
She also taught English as a foreign language in the United Arab Emirates and was chosen in 2007 to participate in the Japanese Fulbright Program, which allowed her to spend three weeks observing different schools and cultures in person.
Still a student at heart, Tomasic enjoys learning and can't envision a time when that will change.
But she credits Elizabeth Wasiluk - a Hedgesville High teacher who is also in charge of the Berkeley County Planetarium, which is located at the school - for giving her the idea to apply for space camp. Wasiluk attended the astronaut training program last summer, Tomasic said.
Part of Team Destiny, Tomasic said others in her group hailed from India, Romania, Turkey, Portugal and Brazil.
Tomasic already knows how she wants to share this experience locally, ideas that include using a Mission Control script with students. She plans to incorporate technology, while the lesson will also include English elements as well.
She'll also be able to download materials for use this school year, another academic benefit for her students.
"It was just an amazing experience, and I am extremely grateful because approximately 1,000 teachers apply each year but only 200 are selected to participate," Tomasic said.