Rich Santer, a lifelong Levittown resident and East Meadow teacher, has been named the Turner N. Wiley Teacher of the Year by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.
Santer has been bringing his students to the Challenger Center for simulated space missions since 1996. Throughout his 26-year teaching career in the East Meadow School District, Santer has involved his students in a multitude of special space education programs.
Santer's students have had two experiments selected by NASA for flight on Space Shuttles (STS 102 & STS 108) and have interviewed astronauts on the International Space Station via HAM radio and studied the Earth using the Space Station’s camera. More recently, his current 5th graders have photographed the surface of the Moon using NASA’s GRAIL satellites currently in lunar orbit through the MoonKAM program.
A Project Astro teacher, Santer graduated from Division Avenue High School going on to receive a BA in Elemenary Education and a MA in Elementary Education from Hofstra University. He also holds a Professional Diploma in School District Administration from SUNY Stony Brook.
“I was inspired to read about your contributions to your profession and your local Challenger Learning Center, but most importantly, the impact you have on students," said Dr. Scobee-Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee, and Founding Chairman of Challenger Center.
This honor, named after the late NASA Chief of the Communication Engineering Branch Turner N. Wiley, allows Challenger Center’s international network of Challenger Learning Centers to recognize teachers from their communities who exemplify the spirit of the Challenger crew’s education mission, and who share a commitment to learning about science, mathematics, and technology.
Staff members from each of the Challenger Learning Centers are invited to nominate one instructor who had cultivated a strong relationship with their local Challenger Learning Center; and whose commitment to education has made a noticeable impact on students and the community at large.
“The gifted teachers who receive this award may come from different places or teach different grades, but they are linked together by a genuine desire to ignite their students’ curiosities about our universe, to engage them in learning and discovery, and to teach them that their futures have no boundaries," said Rodgers.
The award is a special medallion that was produced by NASA from material taken on the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon.