Kaci Heins, the Northland Preparatory Academy science teacher who made balloon launches a regular occurrence in Flagstaff, announced she accepted a position at the Space Center Houston.
Heins, who taught at the PEAK School, Mount Elden Middle School and NPA during her time in Flagstaff, said the opportunity was “like a dream job” for her.
“I’ve always felt like I have been working and building toward something, but I just didn’t know what,” she said.
Heins said she was excited to start work where everyone around her was as enthusiastic about space and space exploration as she is, but became emotional when she talked about leaving her students behind.
“It’s so bittersweet, I get choked up even thinking about it,” she said. “It’s been a hard decision, but everything was meant to be.”
Heins will now supervise educational outreach for the center, including supervising activities for the “Space Center University” which brings in students from countries all over the world to do space-related experiments and activities.
Heins has been awarded a variety of grants and recognitions for her work in science education, including STEM Teacher of the Year, Arizona Middle School Science Teacher of the Year and was just recently awarded the 2016 PBS Digital Innovator award.
Her last day teaching at NPA was Wednesday. Heins’ husband, Eric, who is the NAU cross country and track coach, will remain in Flagstaff for a year and join her in Houston in 2017.
Heins said she was sad to leave the classroom, but grateful for the experiences she had in Flagstaff.
“I really want to thank my school for their support,” she said. “They have supported so many projects I wanted to bring to the school, and they’ve never said ‘no’ when I wanted to try something.”