Nancy Parra-Quinlan Named AFA’s 2022 Teacher of the Year

August 19, 2022   |   By Patrick Reardon

Nancy Parra-Quinlan
Nancy Parra-Quinlan of Kino Junior High School in Mesa, Ariz. is AFA’s 2022 Teacher of the Year.

The Air & Space Forces Association named Nancy Parra-Quinlan of Kino Junior High School in Mesa, Ariz., the 2022 Teacher of the Year.

The annual award recognizes exceptional teachers who inspire their students through innovative approaches to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. The award is sponsored by Rolls-Royce North America Defense. 

“Our Teacher of the Year program not only serves to recognize the education talent we have in the United States, but also to acknowledge the importance of educators in our society,” said Stephen Gourley, AFA’s Vice Chairman of the Board for Aerospace Education. “‘Mrs. P-Q’ rightfully joins a long list of exceptional teachers. We are proud know her and provide this well-deserved recognition.” 

Parra-Quinlan teaches 7th and 8th grade science, STEM, and Career and Technical Education (CTE) at Kino Junior High, a Title I school in an economically disadvantaged area of Mesa. Since offering the school’s first STEM class in 2011, she has grown the program to include elective courses on robotic programming, 3D modeling and design, DNA comparison, and aeronautic engineering. In addition, Parra-Quinlan sponsors Kino Junior High’s STEM club and has arranged for club members to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Space Academy in Huntsville, Ala., and attend Astro Camp in Idyllwild, Calif., during summer vacation. 

Outside of class time, Parra-Quinlan sticks to her themes, coaching the “RoboKolts,” Kino Junior High’s after-school robotics team in the FIRST LEGO League. She also plans, markets, and runs the Aerospace Academy, a two-week summer camp that gives students from around the Phoenix metropolitan area exposure to STEM careers through tours and guest speakers.  

Her campers have visited Boeing’s AH-64 Apache helicopter factory and a Southwest Airlines maintenance hangar, and they have met air traffic controllers and other Federal Aviation Administration staff at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. 

A captain in the Civil Air Patrol and an Aerospace Education Officer, Parra-Quinlan helps cadets pursue aerospace career goals and helps supply local teachers with resources to cultivate STEM interest at their schools. 

“Congratulations to Nancy for this well-deserved recognition as AFA’s National Teacher of the Year!” said Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson (Ret.), Senior Vice President of Business Development at Rolls-Royce North America Defense. “We are proud to support Nancy and the Air & Space Forces Association as we all work together to develop and support today’s STEM students—the science and technology specialists of tomorrow.” 

Robbie Ferguson, nominated by AFA’s CO #127 Mile High Chapter, was named 2022 Teacher of the Year First Runner Up. Ferguson teaches aerospace engineering and computer science to 9th-12th grade students at Westminister High School in Westminister, Colo. He has partnered with NASA and the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology to help students earn college credits and industry certifications in preparation for future careers in STEM.  

Dr. Marina Mosneaguta was recognized as Second Runner Up. Mosneaguta was nominated by AFA’s SC Swamp Fox Chapter 298. A math teacher and the STEM lead at Alice Drive Middle School in Sumter, S.C., Mosneaguta gives her students hands-on experience conducting scientific research through the Students Spaceflight Experiments Program. She also organizes virtual meetings between her students and STEM professionals, including aerospace engineers, astronauts, and even Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson.

About AFA

An independent non-profit association, the Air & Space Forces Association is the single-largest professional military association dedicated to air and space power and to the advancement of aerospace education at every level. Founded in 1946, AFA is dedicated to promoting dominant U.S. Air and Space Forces as the foundation of a strong National Defense; honoring and supporting Airmen, Guardians, and their Families; and remembering and respecting the enduring heritage of the Air and Space Forces.

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