Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, so let me start by saying thank you to all teachers at all levels. What you do day in and day out is awe inspiring.
Before I came to the National Air and Space Museum to host STEM in 30, I taught for 17 years. I taught 5th grade and middle school science and broadcasting. When I came to the Museum my colleagues heard me talk about “being in the trenches.” The day-to-day grind in a classroom is unbelievably rewarding, but at times it is just that—a grind.
While the time spent with students is incredibly rewarding, many parts often go unseen: Getting to school early to make sure lessons are ready for the day; staying late to help with after school activities; giving up lunch to make copies, meet with parents, attend meetings to individualize instruction, dissect data, or plan pizza night.
Teachers are my heroes, and I was lucky to have had some amazing teachers who inspired me to work hard, think on my feet, and eventually become an educator.
As part of my work on STEM in 30, I get to meet a lot of astronauts. During our segment called “My Path,” we ask them a series of questions about how they get to where they are. Every astronaut or scientist we have spoken to can name a teacher who influenced his or her life in a positive way. It’s incredible to see the influence of teachers on people who are at the top of their profession, whether it was a band director, an inspiring first grade teacher, or a challenging college professor.
As NASA astronaut Anne McClain told me, “When I said I wanted to be an astronaut or wanted to go to West Point—these are big dreams for a girl from a small town, like me—I had these great teachers that said I can do it.”