Watch CBS News

Christa McAuliffe's Legacy Lives On 30 Years After Challenger Disaster

BOSTON (CBS) - Thirty years ago today excitement turned to horror as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff. Seven astronauts died, including Christa McAuliffe, the Framingham native and Concord, New Hampshire teacher who was going to become the first teacher in space.

McAuliffe wanted to travel aboard the shuttle to spread her love of education and teaching. Though she never made it to space, her enthusiasm for learning lives on in her former students.

Kristin Jacques, now a fifth grade teacher at Maple Street elementary school in Contoocook, New Hampshire is one of those students who can give this history lesson from personal experience. "Christa, herself as a person, left a mark on people," said Jacques.

Christa McAuliffe was her social studies teacher at Concord, New Hampshire high school. She remembers the excitement watching Challenger launch with fellow students, then the confusion and tragedy. "At that time we weren't watching launches, we didn't know what to expect. We hoped that parachutes would be coming out."

Kristin Jacques
Kristin Jacques (WBZ-TV)

McAuliffe shared her training with her students and the experience left its mark. Now Jacques has followed in her teacher's footsteps. "She just reached everybody. She respected every student and brought the best out of everyone."

When McAuliffe was a finalist for the NASA program she told WBZ-TV's Beth Germano, then a radio reporter, about the enthusiasm for teaching she hoped to generate with lessons from space.

"I think I've always been a risk taker. I like to do things that are adventuresome. I'm really hoping it generates excitement in the education process to give teachers a more positive role."

Jacques says when McAuliffe was chosen it was beyond exciting for the community. "We were just such a small community. How out of eleven thousand applicants could somebody from Concord, New Hampshire be selected." She says McAuliffe is her role model in the classroom.

Listen to Beth Germano's full interview with Christa McAuliffe

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.