In recognition of National Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to encourage everyone to thank a teacher today for the extraordinary daily sacrifices and contributions they make to prepare our young people for lives of purpose and meaning. Great teachers have played an especially big part in my own life. My mother, father, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were all teachers. Whenever I am asked what led me to pursue a career as a Marine, an astronaut, and to accept the President’s appointment as Administrator of NASA, I think back to my days growing up in the segregated schools of Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to the compassionate, loving guidance of my parents, I will never forget the lessons instilled in me by my teachers at Columbia’s Carver Elementary, W.A. Perry Middle School, and C.A. Johnson High School. They not only taught me the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, they taught me the hard facts of life and impressed upon me that no matter the odds, I should stay in school and follow my dreams. I took that advice to heart and it has given me the strength to break barriers and achieve goals that were unthinkable for a southern born African American 60 years ago.
One of the things I like most about my job at NASA is the opportunity I get to meet with the growing numbers of teachers and students who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math, especially as these subjects relate to the exploration of space. Through NASA’s educational outreach and partnerships with students and schools, we are committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists and explorers who will ensure America’s continued leadership in technology, innovation and space. It all begins in the classroom with a great teacher. Take a moment today to thank a teacher who made a difference in your life.