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Teachers Reunite for Launch


In 1984, when NASA announced they would send a teacher into space, 10,000 applied for the opportunity. New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe was selected, but lost her life in the tragic 1986 Challenger explosion. Two decades later, teacher-turned-astronaut and McAulliffe’s alternate, Barbara Morgan gets her chance.

Sixty teachers, who competed for the chance 20 years ago and were present for McAuliffe’s launch, have reunited in Florida to watch Morgan’s take-off. Said teacher Pat Palazzolo, “What a chance for an ultimate field trip. Who wouldn’t apply for that?”

NPR spoke to a number of the reunited teachers who expressed conflicted emotions over the Endeavor launch. Teacher Judith Garcia, one of the original ten finalists, said her nerves will probably only lift when Endeavor touches down. “I just keep my positive thoughts going. And, when I see that shuttle go up, no one’s voice will be louder than mine saying, ‘God’s speed, Barbara.’”


As I watched the launch with Astronaut and teacher Barbara Morgan last evening, I was overcome with many emotions and thoughts and memories.

Teachers represent all that is possible to our young people, and that Ms. Morgan remained committed to her dream for so many years could and should serve as further inspiration for young people and professional educators alike: to hold onto your dreams!

Our dream of empowering young people to see and achieve their full and unique potentials in life is the very heart of our mission as educators, and as a teacher educator, I have come to know that teachers, too, have dreams that need to be empowered. Thank you Barbara Morgan for your inspiration to hold onto our dreams, and for evoking emotional responses from me and others, a quality missing from teaching and learning in our NCLB environment.

Teacher Morgan, as you are closer to Christa McAuliffe in space, reunite with her to become whole and complete, and tell her we love her and miss her.

I remember finding the information about being the first teacher in space in the Teacher's Room at school in 1984 and thinking I would love to apply for this opportunity. Then I thought of my three-year-old daughter and my husband and put the literature down on the table, thinking, "No, I guess this is not for me, not now anyway."
In January of 1986, on the day of the Challenger disaster, (I was four-months pregnant with my son). I was teaching reading to a group of students when I heard the news report. My heart sank, and an anxious feeling came over me. I was thankful to be where I was, but my thoughts went to Christa & her family.
Today, as a principal, I cheer Barbara Morgan, who has such courage after living with the memory of that day in 1986 for so many years. (I still get butterflies in my stomach when I think of that day.) Barbara proudly represents educators as she heads to space and leads by example as teachers do on a daily basis.
I send my best wishes and positive thoughts to Barbara Morgan and her family as well as to Christa McAuliffe's family. Christa and Barbara, as dedicated teachers who promoted educational improvement, will always live in my memory.

What a wonderful example of persistence and never giving up on a dream, Barbara Morgan has been. I had the opportunity to meet Barbara at Kennedy Space Center during the first NEWEST workshop in 1988. She was inspirational then as she shared her experiences. I had the opportunity to visit with her again the following year in Seattle at the NSTA convention. She still held onto the dream of someday traveling into space even though, at that time, she was in the later stages of pregnancy. Needless to say yesterdays successful launch, after twenty years of waiting was the fulfillment of that dream. I think the ultimate goal of most teachers is to instill the desire to dream big in our kids. Barbara has certainly done that and shown that many times we must wait a long time to see our dreams come into reality.

I applied for the teacher in space position and on launch day was watching with my class. My students watched me cry as several educators who had written my recommendations for the program called my classroom just to say how glad they were that I did not go on the mission. I am still glad that I tried, and that I set new dreams. The recent launch rededicated those thoughts. You need to act on dreams to make them happen. Failure only happens when you give up.

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Recent Comments

  • Cristine Field Todd: I applied for the teacher in space position and on read more
  • Rosanne Riley: What a wonderful example of persistence and never giving up read more
  • Marilyn Weber: I remember finding the information about being the first teacher read more
  • Henry Brzycki: As I watched the launch with Astronaut and teacher Barbara read more




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