114 Teachers to Compete for Chance to Be First Private Citizen in Space

By Blake Rodman — May 22, 1985 8 min read
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The Council of Chief State School Officers, the group chosen to coordinate the selection of the teacher who will fly on a space-shuttle mission early next year, has named the 114 candidates who will be considered for the journey.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s “teacher in space” project was announced last year after President Reagan said that a teacher would be the first private citizen to fly on a space-shuttle mission. The teacher selected for the honor will blast into space on January 22, 1986, aboard the space vehicle Challenger, according to Alan Ladwig, manager of the spaceflight participant program.

“It’s wonderful,” said Denise Van Bibber, a physical-education teacher at the Alexandria (La.) Country Day School who was nominated by a state review panel. “I’m ready for the blastoff.”

Ms. Van Bibber, who is 42 years old, said she was selected because, as a teacher, mother of two children, and community activist, “I represent what is right with America.”

“I’m a patriot, and I tried to express that on my application,” she said.

A. John Cazanas, a 56-year-old English teacher at Rockford (Iowa) Senior High School who was also selected as a candidate, said he applied for the mission because “it’s easy to get into a rut, and I try to do anything I can to get out of those ruts.”

“The only problem is that I’m afraid of heights,” Mr. Cazanas quipped. “But I’m willing to give up my fear for the experience of going up.”

Mr. Cazanas said his nomination created quite commotion in Rockford, a town of 1,000 people. “We haven’t had so much excitement around here in quite a while,” he said.

Another nominee, Lynne M. Heaffele, a 30-year-old biology teacher at Bloomington (Ill.) High School, said that she derives “great satisfaction from knowing that someone from a profession so long demeaned will, literally and figuratively, rise to new heights.”


In June, the 114 teachers will attend a week-long NASA workshop in Washington, during which they will learn about current developments in the space program and NASA educational materials available for classroom use, said Mr. Ladwig of NASA.

“We want to establish a relationship between NASA and these candidates,” Mr. Ladwig said, “so they can conduct programs in their states and go around to schools and talk about NASA’s activities.”

During their stay in Washington, the teachers will also be interviewed by a national review panel made up of “prominent citizens,” Mr. Ladwig noted. The panel will select 10 semifinalists, who will be interviewed again by a NASA committee and then taken to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for a thorough medical examination and briefings about space flight.

Based on the results of the examinations and interviews, NASA Administrator James M. Beggs will then select the primary candidate and a backup candidate to train for the space-shuttle mission.

The 114 candidates were selected from an applicant pool of more than 10,000 teachers from the 50 states, the U.S. territories, the Department of Defense and Department of State overseas schools, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.

Each state, territory, and agency selected two candidates based on responses to a lengthy application form that asked for biographical and medical information, and required the applicants to write essays on such topics as their philosophy of teaching and how they might best share their experience in space after the flight.

To qualify for the project, applicants had to be U.S. citizens employed for the past five years as full-time elementary- or secondary-school teachers in public or private schools and to meet basic medical requirements.

A list of the 114 nominees and their schools, as provided by the council, follows:

Alabama: Sophia Ann Clifford, Erwin High School, Birmingham; Pamela Sue Grayson, Minor High School, Birmingham.

Alaska: Mildred J. Heinrich, Robert Service High School, Anchorage; Richard C. Houghton, Napaaqtugmiut High School, Noatak.

Arizona: Robert Carpenter, Secrist Middle School, Tucson; Robin Kline, Tonalea Elementary School, Scottsdale.

Arkansas: William A. Dempsey, Arkansas Senior High School, Texarkana; Mary Beth Grenway, Parkview High School, Little Rock.

Bureau of Indian Affairs: Stan Renfro, Wingate High School, Fort Wingate, N.M.; Sherry Woodside, Wingate Elementary School, Fort Wingate, N.M.

California: William M. Dillon Jr., Peninsula High School, San Bruno; Gloria M. McMillan, La Jolla High School, La Jolla.

Colorado: Kim Natale, Pomona High School, Arvada; Robert Stack, Shawsheen High School, Greeley.

Connecticut: Robert Mellette, Conte Arts Magnet School, New Haven; David Warner, Westminster School, Simsbury.

Delaware: Henry E. W. Bouchelle, Pilot Elementary School, Wilmington; Stephanie Gerjovich-Wright, Stanton Middle School, Wilmington.

Department of Defense: Mary Smothers, Kaiserslautern American High School, APO, New York; Kenneth VanLew, Frankfurt High School, APO, New York.

Department of State: Donald Jonasson, Jakarta International School, Jakarta Selatan; Bruce Wixted, American of Kuwait, Hawalli.

District of Columbia: William A. Barwick Jr., Woodrow Wilson High School; Nancy J. Cooksy, Eastern High School.

Florida: Susan W. Forte, Georgestone Vocational School, Pensacola; Michael D. Reynolds, Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School, Neptune Beach.

Georgia: Thomas Phillip Garmon, Benjamin E. Mays High School, Atlanta; Carol G. Hickson, Fernback Science Center, Atlanta.

Guam: Dale J. Jenkins, St. John’s School, Tumon Bay; M. Bernadette McCorkle, Vocational High School, Barrigada.

Hawaii: Joseph Ciotti, St. Louis High School, Honolulu; Arthur Kimura, McKinley high School, Honolulu.

Idaho: David M. Marquart, Boise High School, Boise; Barbara R. Morgan, McCall--Donnelly Elementary School, McCall.

Illinois: John D. Baird, Quincy Senior High School, Quincy; Lynne M. Haeffele, Bloomington High School, Bloomington.

Indiana: Robert S. Foerster, Cumberland Elementary School, West Lafayette; Stephen L. Tucker, West Vigo High School, West Terre Haute.

Iowa: A. John Cazanas, Rockford Senior High School, Rockford; Lori M. Goetsch, Mt. Pleasant Junior High School, Mount Pleasant.

Kansas: Wendell G. Mohling, Shawnee Mission North West High School, Shawnee Mission; Barry L. Schartz, Goddard High School, Goddard.

Kentucky: Sue Ellen W. Darnell, North Marshall Junior High School, Calvert City; Judy A. White, L.C. Curry Elementary School, Bowling Green.

Louisiana: Debra Harris, Rusheon Junior High School, Bossier City; Denise Van Bibber, Alexandria Country Day School, Alexandria.

Maine: Gordon L. Corbett, Yarmouth Intermediate School, Yarmouth; William C. Townsend, Summer Memorial High School, East Sullivan.

Maryland: Kathleen Beres, Kenwood High School, Baltimore; David R. Zahren, G. Gardner Shugart Middle School, Hillcrest Heights.

Massachusetts: Richard Methia, New Bedford High School, New Bedford; Charles Sposato, Farley Middle School, Framingham.

Michigan: Derrick Fries, Seaholm High School, Birmingham; Sharon Newman, West Hills Middle School, West Bloomfield.

Minnesota: Steve L Brehmer, Wanamingo Public High School, Wanamingo; Katherine Koch-Laveen, Apple Valley High School, Apple Valley.

Mississippi: Connie Moore, Oak Grove High School, Hattiesburg; Joann Reid, Weir Attendance Center, Weir.

Missouri: Christopher W. Brown, McCluer North Senior High School, Florissant; Richard K. Kavanaugh, Park Hill R-5 High School, Kansas City.

Montana: Paul Dorrance, Helena High School, Helena; Patricia Johnson, Capital High School, Helena.

Nebraska: Roger Ray, Northwest High School, Omaha; James R. Schaeffer, Lincoln East High School, Lincoln.

Nevada: Ericka J. Turner, Chaparral High School, Las Vegas; Joan C. Turner, Las Vegas High School, Las Vegas.

New Hampshire: Christa McAuliffe, Concord High School, Concord; Robert Veilleux, Central High School, Manchester.

New Jersey: Jeannine M. Duane, Black River Middle School, Chester; Binnie J. Thom, Walter C. Black Elementary School, Hightstown.

New Mexico: Jennifer Dotson, Jones Ranch School, Jones Ranch; Laura Reeves, Rio Grande High School, Albuquerque.

New York: Susan A. Agruso, East Islip High School, Islip Terrace; Edward F. Duncanson, Crispell Middle School, Pine Bush.

North Carolina: Ernest W. Morgan, Morganton Junior High School, Morganton; Cynthia B. Zeger, Salisbury High School, Salisbury.

North Dakota: Sherry L. Hanson, A.L. Hagen Junior High School, Dickinson; Donald L. Hoff, Velva High School, Velva.

Ohio: Gail B. Klink, Newark High School, Newark; James B. Rowley, Centerville High School, Centerville.

Oklahoma: Freda D. Deskin, Pauls Valley Middle School, Pauls Valley; Frank E. Marcum, Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa.

Oregon: Stephen Boyarski, Medford High School, Medford; Michael Fitzgibbons Forest Grove High School, Forest Grove.

Pennsylvania: Patricia Plazzolo, Clairton High School, Clairton; Charles Tremer, Southern Lehigh High School, Center Valley.

Puerto Rico: Nancy M. Lee, Roosevelt Roads Middle School, Ceiba; John G. Wells, Roosevelt Roads Middle School, Ceiba.

Rhode Island: Ronald Reynolds, Barrington High School, Barrington; Leisa Sadwin, Halliwell Elementary School, North Smithfield.

South Carolina: Michael H. Farmer, Riverside High School; Greer; Myra J. Halpin, Goose Creek High School, Goose Creek.

South Dakota: Kevin J. Falon, Lincoln Senior High School, Sioux Falls; Gerald E. Loomer, Rapid City Central High School, Rapid City.

Tennessee: Carolyn H. Dobbins, McMurray Middle School, Nashville; Bonnie D. Fakes, Lebanon High School, Lebanon.

Texas: Peggy Lathlaen, Westwood Elementary School, Friendswood; Stephen A. Warren, Stephen F. Austin High School, Austin.

Utah: John W. Barainca, Brighton High School, Salt Lake City; Linda J. Preston, Park City High School, Park City.

Vermont: Gail Breslauer, Fayston Elementary School, Waitsfield; Michael Metcalf, Hazen Union Junior High School, Hardwick.

Virginia: Ronald C. Fortunato, Norfolk Technical Vocational Center, Norfolk; Judith M. Garcia, Jefferson School For Science and Technology, Alexandria.

Virgin Islands: Carol Eby, Peace Corps Elementary School, St. Thomas; Rosa Hampson, Elena Christian Junior High School, Christiansted.

Washington: Frances B. Call, Islander Middle School, Mercer Island; Michael R. Jones, Kellogg Middle School, Seattle.

West Virginia: Nike M. Wenger, Vandevender Junior High School, Parkersburg; Melanie B. Vickers, St. Albans Junior High School, St. Albans.

Wisconsin: Ellen Baerman, Wisconsin Hills Elementary School, Brookfield; Larry Scheckel, Tomah Senior High School, Tomah.

Wyoming: Michael G. Pearson, McCormick Junior High School; Julie M. Gess, Evanston High School, Evanston.

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