35 years ago, on this date, January 28, 1986, The Challenger exploded upon takeoff. Much like earlier generations would remember where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed, or what they were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated, many people remember where they were when they saw The Challenger explode. Many who remember were school children in their nationwide classrooms watching the event, because for the first time, a (female) teacher was going into space!
I was very interested in the entire teacher in space project. Although I was not a science teacher, I knew what a great "hook" lessons from space would be! Students are always interested in something novel, and a lesson from space had never been done before, so these space lessons had the great opportunity to reach a global audience.
In 1986, I was on a sabbatical leave from school, living in Plano, TX. My late husband had taken a job there, but we were not sure if we would be staying in Texas, or moving back to Pennsylvania, so I took a leave of absence for one school year. I happened to be walking through the electronics department of the J C Penney Store in Collin Creek mall when the Challenger was launched. More than 100 television sets were all tuned into the same channel. When It exploded, I saw it on 100 screens, a sight that I can never "unsee," I watched for a few minutes more, sobbing, then got in my car and drove home. Like so many Americans, I had grown accustomed to successful space missions, and the fact that a teacher (who could have been any of my friends or me, so this was really personal) was on board made this tragedy even more difficult to accept. Although it a brilliant and sunny day in Plano, it was raining in my heart.
Sometimes, I muse about what might have been if the mission had not failed. I believe that even more students - boys and girls - would have become scientists. I think of how Christa's family would have been changed, had their mother and wife lived. I think about how her foray into space could have elevated all educators, making us more confident and bolder in our teaching. So many dreams died when that spacecraft exploded.
Christa would probably be retired and a grandmother these 35 years later. In my mind, she will always be a hero, with her her quest to educate students and help them to love learning. I have carried her famous quote in my heart these 35 years. "I touch the future. I teach." Christa McAuliffe made all teachers so proud to be a part of the profession.
Today is a sad day to remember that so much promise exploded along with The Challenger. Thanks to those who lost their lives that day, and blessings to their families, who continue to miss them.
Visit Dede's web page for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required reading. Signed copies are available www.dederittman.com Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics.
I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books. Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self. However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired!
Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book. I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!
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