Friday, January 28 marked the 25th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. Among the crew killed in the unexpected explosion (see video inside) was schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe whose presence made the space trip an educational mission viewed live by children around the world.
Lesbian filmmakers Renee Sotile and Mary Jo Godges made it their mission to tell the extraordinary story of this extraordinary teacher through a documentary produced with the cooperation of NASA and McAuliffe's mother, Grace Corrigan. In a letter to President Obama (see inside), Corrigan notes that McAuliffe was a firm believer in equal rights. Indeed, in the documentary, Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars, the filmmakers interviewed one of her students who told of McAuliffe's intolerance towards bullies and how she made him feel safe.
"I miss my daughter very much and I'm comforted to know that she lives on in this wonderful film," says Corrigan. "And now, more people will get the chance to see it."
Jonathon Del Arco, Develop Consultant at GLSEN says: "We are very excited to receive this film and be able to share it. We plan to give the DVD as a gift at our GALA events and encourage the film to be watched as a family. "
Here's Grace Corrigan's letter to President Obama:
January 21, 2011
Dear Mr. President Obama,
My daughter is Christa McAuliffe, the first Teacher in Space. On January 28th it will be 25 years that we lost her and the other members of the Challenger crew.
You may have heard that she was an inspiring teacher but may not have heard some of the things she did that made her so special. I would like to share one story with you and how even now, after 25 years, my daughter is still making a difference to education.
Christa was an advocate for equal rights at a time when it was not popular to be. She would not tolerate bullying in her classroom when it came to sexual orientation.
There is a wonderful documentary by filmmakers Renee Sotile and Mary Jo Godges that captures my daughter's pioneering spirit, Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars.
Renee and Mary Jo interviewed a student of Christa's who shared his experience in the classroom. Tony Potter discusses Christa's intolerance to bullies, which made this young gay man feel "safe".
"It just felt like she could accept who I really am. At least one person in the world would accept me. You know, it would be Mrs. McAuliffe," says Tony.
When philanthropist, Pepi Kelman saw the film she was so moved she approached the filmmakers about donating 10,000 DVD's to students and educators primarily through GLSEN, (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network).
"As we approach the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, it is only appropriate that we honor the legacy of Christa McAuliffe with the gift of this film to those who might otherwise not have experienced her teachings," says Kelman, donor and co-founder of DOCCLUB LA, a documentary film group in Los Angeles. "I hope that others will join me in this endeavor to reach even more students and teachers and put a stop to bullying once and for all."
Jonathon Del Arco, Develop Consultant at GLSEN says, "we are very excited to receive this film and be able to share it. We plan to give the DVD as a gift at our GALA events and encourage the film to be watched as a family. "
Mr. President Obama, if you or the administration acknowledges the 25th Anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger tragedy this January 28th, please considering mentioning my daughter and her brave contribution to education and more specifically how she stopped bullying in her classroom.
This is video of the Challenger liftoff and the disaster. Please note that the NASA flight director was apparently looking at the loss of data on his computer monitor, not the screen, which is why he so calmly talks about a “major malfunction.”