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This year, the anniversary of the Challenger disaster snuck up on me. Between the excitement and drama of politics, a right-wing insurrection, a global pandemic, and everything else going on in the world today, I did not realize until it was mentioned on the evening news that it was recently the 35th anniversary of the Challenger launch.

The inspirational young teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who was lost in the disaster, has inspired students and volunteers to promote STEM education at learning centers all over the country and the world. On this anniversary of the Challenger disaster, I feel more than ever that we need to honor our teachers here and now, too.

Our country has lost no less than 180 active teachers and hundreds of other school staff. Whether they are teaching online classes to elementary school kids, deploying newly learned skills with new technology, or taking the risk of teaching in person at local schools, or working from home or at a district facility paying invoices, preparing school lunches, leading schools or districts, or cleaning classrooms, all deserve our admiration and respect.

Last year, while the head of the federal government actively misrepresented the risks of COVID-19, and our governor tried but broadly failed to contain it, our school district sprang into action to protect and serve their students and their community.

Online classes were put together at a stunning pace. The district innovated and iterated to keep kids learning. They were broadly successful.

Families that did not have enough computers could borrow Chromebooks. Families that did not have reliable internet access were helped with hotspots. School lunches were made available at no cost, and low/no contact pickup locations were strategically set up around the district.

Each of these processes was put together and improved upon with dedication, precision and perseverance that deserve our sincere appreciation.

I could not be prouder of our district’s teachers, staff and administrators. They are invaluable treasures to our community in good times, and desperately needed support during challenging times. They really are our best.

I only wish our school facilities measured up to the heroes that teach and serve in them.

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