Remembering Christa McAuliffe

Those of us who were educators 25 years ago likely felt the same feeling on January 28, 1986, as we did when we heard that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated or as we felt on September 11, 2001. Anyone of school age or older in 1986 remembers the exact moment that the Challenger Space Shuttle burst into flames, claiming all seven astronauts’ lives – including Christa McAuliffe, one of our own who was to be the first teacher in space.


Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. Perhaps teachers teaching in 1986 who are still in the classroom today will describe the day’s historical and personal significance to their students.


This morning at the Kennedy Space Center, the site of the Challenger launch, the Astronauts Memorial Foundation held a ceremony in honor of the crew. The Houston Challenger Learning Center will use a live national webcast to connect today’s students with astronauts.


In Concord, New Hampshire, where Christa McAuliffe taught, some of her fellow teachers will get together to share their thoughts and feelings about the disaster 25 years ago.


Ms. McAuliffe’s goal was to get her students – and students everywhere – interested in the space program. As a teacher who believed in hands-on learning, she wanted students to engage deeply in their academic subjects, not just concentrate on what they needed to know to pass a test.


Christa McAuliffe was an Association member in New Hampshire. A good communicator and a charismatic teacher leader, she spoke from the heart about what it was like to be a teacher and what she wanted for her students. On the lecture circuit and in her writings, she talked about the importance of having a good teacher in every classroom in America.


She famously said, “I touch the future, I teach.” In doing so, Christa McAuliffe elevated the teaching profession to a new level through her thoughtful words and deliberate actions.


We must carry on her legacy.


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