MERCER ISLAND, WA (July 22, 2010) – The Teacher of the Year Award medallion that the Challenger Center for Space Science Education presented to teacher Thelma Ritchie has a history that includes a trip around the moon.
The following is from the Challenger Center website:
The Teacher of the Year award is a special medallion that was produced by NASA from material taken on the Apollo 8 mission to the moon. On December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast to date, the crew of Apollo 8 read from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon.
Resting beside astronauts William Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman as they spoke to the citizens of earth was a small ball of pure aluminum to be used as a “thank you” to the ground support teams. Upon return to earth, this memento was melted with a larger amount of pure aluminum from which this medallion was struck. A small number of the medallions remained entrusted to Mr. Wiley’s care, who at the time was Chief of the NASA Communication Engineering Branch at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
At his request, his gift is used to honor students and teachers who perform exemplary work in education. Mr. Wiley told Challenger Center before his death last year, “What better way to continue the tradition of these medallions than to reward educators who are working in both classrooms and Challenger Learning Centers to cultivate the next generation of space explorers.”