NASA? Check. ISR? Check! At ISR, we draw a significant portion of our organizational strength from the diverse backgrounds of our ISR Instructors. Recently, an ISR Instructor sat down and shared with us her fascinating path to an ISR Career.
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be an astronaut. I remember in first grade watching Challenger explode on launch, and that still didn’t deter me. As I got older and ready for college, I didn’t care what my degree was as long as I got to go work at NASA. I ended up graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering. And yes, I got to go work at NASA. My job was to train the astronauts to go live aboard the International Space Station, as well as working in Mission Control as a flight controller. Those jobs I did for over 13 years. Space was and still is my passion. And so is swimming.
I don’t remember not knowing how to swim. I remember taking stroke lessons. I swam competitively since I was 9 years old until I was 18. When I was 13, I had to choose between playing soccer and being on swim team, and I chose swim. And with swim, came water polo. I helped start the women’s water polo club team at Texas A&M, which has evolved into a huge program. It started with only a handful of us – and most of us still play water polo together to this day.
When I had my children, I knew that they had to know how to swim. With my firstborn, my son Vaughn, we tried those “mommy and me” classes when he was about 8 months old, and I quickly realized that was just playtime in the water. It taught him nothing. A close friend of mine then informed me of ISR, which I had never heard of. Needless to say, I signed up with Araceli Merkle immediately, and he was a rock star student (he would rollback to his float and giggle – all at 10 months old). I religiously brought him back the following couple of years until his sister Mirabell was born – and she became a rock star student as well! (Both are June babies, so I couldn’t start at 6 months – otherwise I would have!).
I would talk at length with Araceli about the program and the “what ifs” if I could actually teach ISR. When I was pregnant with Mira, I contacted ISR about becoming an instructor. Since there are a few instructors in my area, I was told that I would have to wait until another instructor was needed. Needless to say, every summer I contacted ISR and still let them know I was interested. Finally, I received THE phone call. My husband Rick and I were thrilled. It was perfect timing. I was getting burnt out at work, there were a lot of changes happening and I was not enjoying my job like I used to and I was looking for a change. In fact, the week before I got the phone call from ISR, I had agreed to move to a different department! I had to let them know that I got this new AMAZING opportunity and I haven’t looked back! I worked full time at NASA while I trained as an ISR instructor (sleep is overrated, right?), and finally got my certification!
I know I made a difference in people’s lives when I trained astronauts, but being an ISR instructor takes making a difference to a whole new level. I not only give parents the comfort of knowing their child is safe in the water, but I get to share my love of the water with the kids, and help them become the confident and competent swimmers I know they can be.