One More Star Behind STARBASE – Meet Bill Lee


STARBASE is a program within Portsmouth Public Schools that encourages and inspires
students to think creatively through the multiple disciplines of STEM. One of the instructors who creates
an environment for learning is Bill Lee (call sign, “Brooklyn”…guess where he’s from?). Currently, Bill
is an instructor in SPACEBASE, the fourth-grade program at STARBASE.

Laura Nelson, Science Coordinator for Portsmouth, knew Bill from his time working at the Virginia Air &
Space Center. They worked together on Beazley Foundation grants to bring SOL-related programs to 3rd
through 6th grade students in Portsmouth. Laura recruited Bill to join STARBASE in September 2008,
and he began his journey with Portsmouth Public Schools as a science instructor. For thirteen years now,
he has been teaching during the school year and summer camps. Initially, he focused on 4th graders in the SPACEBASE program but frequently taught in the AEROBASE program as well. Bill has also taken on responsibility for logistics (handling an = extensive inventory of cleaning supplies and copy paper). For several years, he printed the mission log workbooks for all grades because the copier is across the hall from his classroom. Beyond STARBASE, he also helped organize and run regional VEX Robotics competitions.

Perhaps the most challenging times for Bill came during the pandemic when the in-person STARBASE programs switched to the “virtual” Project SCOUT (STARBASE Connections and Outreach Using Technology).

“We only had four sessions of between thirty and forty-five minutes, instead of four nearly full-day sessions, which limited the amount of material we could cover with the students,” explained Bill. “Plus, teaching virtually meant that it was more difficult to ensure active student participation and learning than if the students were present in the school house. We had to monitor little thumbnail pictures of the students on the ZOOM, while delivering the lesson content, and we had to adjust instruction to provide feedback from the students via an application called Flipgrid.”

Fortunately, the school district provided every student with a Chromebook. According to Bill, Project
SCOUT was an interesting opportunity for the instructors (and the students) to learn new online
technology (ZOOM, Schoology, Flipgrid). He has seen some students excel in the virtual model during
the past school year. The STARBASE staff met the school and class participation winners when they
came to STARBASE to pick up the prizes we offered for exceptional student participation.

Virtual learning can have its ups and downs when dealing with students online. Children learn in different
ways, and that always requires using a variety of teaching styles. The virtual classroom is not as flexible
as the traditional learning environment. Which means that instructional techniques are even more
important when teaching virtually. Fortunately, Bill Lee is a very experienced science instructor who made
sure that his students had every tool possible to succeed.

Bill is planning to retire this summer after teaching three weeks of Code Trekkers camps. The students,
the staff and the entire PPS community will miss him. He has promised to come back and help with the
summer camps and possibly some days during the school year to help with mission logs or rocket
launches. While teaching AEROBASE and 25+ years working at the VASC, Bill calculates that he has
been involved in the making and launching of about 10,000 rockets. That may be a Guinness World
record!

Bill is looking forward to having more time to do what he already does on his time off: travel
around America, visiting both national parks and ballparks. He shares that: “I plan to take a trip
to Alaska, probably next summer. It’s the only state that I have not visited.”

We will miss you, Brooklyn! Be sure to send us a lot of pictures from your adventures!