When I was in the third grade I knew that when I grew up I wanted to be a teacher. While other little girls were combing their doll’s hair, I was lining them up and teaching them or passing back their assignments. (The graded assignments, by the way, my teachers had given back to me.) In the third grade I learned that a teacher was going to get the chance to go into space. What could be cooler than that? I didn’t know then, but that teacher was selected from at least 11,000 applicants. The plan was that she would participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project. She was meant to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from the Space Shuttle Challenger.

That teacher was Christa McAuliffe. On January 28, 1986, we gathered as a class and sat in stunned silence as less than two minutes after launch, she and the other passengers lost their lives. I remember being so sad at the time. What has remained with me all these years is that this teacher, this woman, was fearless. For that reason, Christa McAuliffe is one of my childhood heroines.

-Mercedes Pino

For more information, visit Christa McAuliffe’s NASA Astronaut Bio.

Check back tomorrow to learn about a woman born into slavery who used her experiences to help free many people.

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