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Getting Involved

CSD Alumnus Credits Teachers, Hard Work for Achieving Goal of Working for NASA

Think bigger, fail smarter, work harder. That’s the motto Canyons alumnus TJ Neyman lives by.

Years ago, when he was a student at Draper Park Middle, the career aptitude tests he took all pointed to him being an engineer. At the time, Neyman thought the tests were wrong. A high school field trip to an engineering lab piqued his interest. It wasn’t until he visited NASA with his family on a trip to Florida that he turned to his mom Alisha and said, “One day I’m going to work here.” Now, at 23 years old, he’s an engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

“We went to this exhibit just to kill time,” says his mom. “We’re watching this presentation and all of a sudden, the doors open and a space shuttle is there. We were just in awe, and I think that was the moment for him.”

Neyman credits his teachers with his success, starting with his kindergarten teacher, Pam Saltmarsh who is now teaching his younger sister, Ellie who is in the sixth grade. Neyman participated in Career Day Thursday and spoke to his sister’s class about exciting job prospects in the aerospace industry.

“I’ve done a lot of these presentations, and I got emotional as I was preparing for this one because this is what it’s about, this is how it came to be,” Neyman says.

When Neyman asked the class what comes to mind when they hear the word engineering, they said things like cars, building things, engines, and science.  When he asked what comes to mind when he says NASA, their answers were planets, stars, rockets, and solar systems.

The way Neyman described it, engineering is about teamwork and self-starting, trying problems out on your own before asking for help, as well as accountability. As for NASA, he says it’s about learning and discovering more about ourselves and life around us.

“It’s something we say at NASA – think bigger, fail smarter, work harder,” he says. “Think big, we come up with these amazing ideas, but we’re only human we know we’re going to fail at some point. When it does happen, we can learn from it and move forward. Then continue to work harder, do everything you can and put your best foot forward.”

Neyman is currently pursuing a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering as well as music at Brigham Young University, while working for NASA on the Space Launch System. Neyman is also working on a computer program, which will allow his team to create digital models of rockets before beginning to build them. They’re also working on a small rocket they hope will travel to Mars to collect mineral samples before returning to Earth.

He stressed the importance of training both sides of the brain, on the critical side as well as the creative side. He encouraged students to find hobbies, study art and music as he is doing, as well as the critical fields such as science and math. “The first person to land on Mars, or live on Mars, or build a rocket to get us to Mars, could be in this classroom right now,” he told the students.

Neyman’s sister, Ellie, says she thought it was cool to have her brother presenting to the class. She too enjoys science and credits her teaching with making the classes fun.

After the presentation, Neyman was able to talk with Ms. Saltmarsh, who he says is “the best kindergarten teacher on the planet,” as well as his science teacher, Draper Middle’s Patricia Sterling who is retiring this year.

“I saw your potential when you were five,” Ms. Saltmarsh told Neyman. “I have said the exact words, ‘this kid is going to be a rocket scientist someday,’ and you are and I’m so, so proud of you.”

Neyman’s parents say they tell their children they can be whatever they want to be. Their son is living proof of that.

“It’s a proud dad moment, for sure,” says Neyman’s father, Mike. “To have this opportunity, it’s things like this that put it into perspective for me and that he’s presenting to Ellie’s classroom, it’s really neat.”

Neyman says he couldn’t have made it this far alone.

“Yes, I worked hard, I’m giving it my all, but it would not be possible without my kindergarten teacher, my math and science teachers. It’s definitely come full circle, we’re all in this together and we can all do great things because of the people around us,” says Neyman. “I learned how to love learning. Once you graduate college, you’re not done learning.  You may be done with classes, but you’re never done learning, I learn every single day here.”

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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