NASA engineer tutors algebra I for free at Huntsville library - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

NASA engineer tutors algebra I for free at Huntsville library

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NASA engineer Jerry Shelby tutors students at the public library. NASA engineer Jerry Shelby tutors students at the public library.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Every Saturday morning without fail, a NASA engineer heads to the library at 9 a.m. sharp. But it's not to check out books.

Instead, Jerry Shelby tutors math for free at the Huntsville Madison County Library.

"One of the issues with mathematics is it's not very affectionate," Shelby said.

But the 62-year-old has plenty of affection for math, especially algebra I.

"A lot of kids need a little tutoring; they need a little discipline because math requires a little discipline," Shelby said.

His students include Pfleger girls, two home schooled sisters who want to get ahead in the subject.

Tania Pfleger and her sister Tabitha already have a nickname for him.

"We call him the math god," Pfleger said.

The Pflegers attend Shelby's class every week. They gather at a second-floor classroom in the library for one-on-one Algebra tutoring.

But teaching math isn't Shelby's only occupation.

He is a NASA engineer and holds a U.S. patent on a rocket engine recovery system.

Shelby is also a disabled veteran. He lost his leg in combat while serving as a U.S. Marine in the Vietnam War. But he said he does not remember much.

"In the jungle you kind of lose track of days," Shelby said.

After the war, Shelby eventually went to engineering school and the rest is history.

‘Here I am today, I'm an engineer, I've been 11 years in grad school, two masters degrees, I have a United States patent in engine recovery," he said.

But Shelby said he has better things to do than monitor his patent. He said he just wants to teach kids that algebra I can be used in real-life scenarios.

"In this algebra I book, when you learn about geometric sequences that lead to money equations that you use when you purchase a home," Shelby said.

And his students are listening.

"I told them we could do this all day and it's interesting," he said.

Shelby hopes to retire from NASA in the near future but continue teaching math.

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