As usual it is raining in my home town, so, as I wandered off home I got out the umbrella I was given at the Science on Stage Conference 2017 in Debrecan, Hungary. It was left over from the Science on Stage London 2015 event, where the weather was typically wonderful.
I can’t say that I was concentrating on where I was going as one of the quotes around the edge of the brolly was “I touch the future- I teach,” by Christa McCulliffe. For those that don’t know, she was the school teacher selected to be the first teacher in space and chosen for flight STS-51-L. This was the flight that never made it into space as it was the Challenger, that blew apart on January 28 1986, starting 73 seconds after lift-off. It was the 25th flight of the American Space Shuttle program, and disastrous final mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which lifted-off from Launch Complex 39-B, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission ended in catastrophic failure with the destruction of Challenger, and the death of all seven crew members.
I can’t begin to imagine the effect on this event on her family, friends and students she taught, and yet, in her short life she really had grasped something about the privilege of teaching. As teachers we really do have the chance to see students who will go on to have their own amazing lives, whether seemingly dull or interesting. Each student chooses their own future and makes their own life. Even getting through life for some is an achievement in itself.
Thanks Christa, that after all these years, you can still influence people and give renewed enthusiasm for the special job we do.