Press Release

Challenger Center Names Six Educators, Teacher of the Year “I Touch the Future. I Teach”

By SpaceRef Editor
May 7, 2009
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The mission of Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space and the 51-L Challenger crew continues as Challenger Center for Space Science Education names six educators from across the country “Teacher of the Year”. Challenger Center was founded in 1986 by the families of the astronauts of the space shuttle Challenger 51-L mission and is dedicated to the educational spirit of that mission through its programs at 46 Challenger Learning Centers worldwide. This honor, the Turner N. Wiley Teacher Award, named after the late Turner Wiley, allows Challenger Center’s international network of Challenger Learning Centers to recognize teachers from their communities who exemplify the spirit of the Challenger crew’s education mission, and who share a commitment to learning about science, mathematics, and technology.

The Teacher of the Year award is a special medallion that was produced by NASA from material taken on the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon. On December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast to date, the crew of Apollo 8 read from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon. Resting beside astronauts William Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman as they spoke to the citizens of Earth was a small ball of pure aluminum to be used as a “thank you” to the ground support teams. Upon return to Earth, this memento was melted with a larger amount of pure aluminum from which this medallion was struck. A small number of the medallions remained entrusted to Mr. Wiley’s care, who at the time was Chief of the NASA Communication Engineering Branch at the Goddard Space Flight Center. At his request, his gift is used to honor students and teachers who perform exemplary work in education. Mr. Wiley told Challenger Center before his death last year, “What better way to continue the tradition of these medallions than to reward educators who are working in both classrooms and Challenger Learning Centers to cultivate the next generation of space explorers.”

Staff members from each of the Challenger Learning Centers were invited to nominate one instructor who had cultivated a strong relationship with their local Challenger Learning Center; and whose commitment to education had made a noticeable impact on students and the community at large. Challenger Center congratulates its Teacher of the Year recipients:

– Ana Sandoval, Special Education Teacher, Stevenson Middle School, San Antonio, Texas

– Carol Gable, Fifth Grade Teacher, Rose Hamilton Elementary, Centerville, Indiana

– Kathy Spykstra, Fifth Grade Teacher, Denver Christian School – Highlands Ranch K-8, Colorado

– Kim Klein, Math and Science Teacher, Dwight Englewood School, Englewood, New Jersey

– Melanie Brink, Gifted Education Teacher, William Pontiac Holliday Elementary, Fairview Heights, Illinois

– Pam Helfers Riss – Math and Science Teacher, Northlawn School, Streator, Illinois

Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee, and Founding Chairman of Challenger Center, said, “The gifted teachers who receive this award may come from different places or teach different grades, but they are linked together by a genuine desire to ignite their student’s curiosities about our universe, to engage them in learning and discovery, and to teach them that their futures have no boundaries. All of us at Challenger Center are grateful that these teachers have found our Challenger Learning Center programs to be a fundamental component of their curriculum.”

Challenger Learning Center programs worldwide continue the space shuttle Challenger 51-L crew’s mission of engaging teachers and students in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. To locate a Challenger Learning Center near you, visit [ ]

SpaceRef staff editor.