Earlier this week, on Teacher Appreciation Day, I tweeted my thanks to Dr. Kenneth Kolb of Bradley University. Sometimes, however, 140 characters isn't enough. As National Teacher Appreciation Week winds down, I want to emphasize the importance of America's excellent teachers.
Now, many people know that my first job after graduating from college was teaching, so I appreciate the work our nation's educators do each day. But, although I taught social studies and have spent much of my career in government, it might surprise you to learn that Bradley's Dr. Kolb was not my Poli-Sci or Econ professor; he taught me Chemistry.
Dr. Kolb did more than teach Chemistry; semester after semester, he taught students the value of science. And when you take students in a required course and get them excited about pursuing careers in science and technology, that's an important contribution.
Across the country, there are thousands of teachers like Dr. Kolb who are getting America's students excited about pursuing coursework and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics--or STEM. And now more than ever, we need those inspired students. We need them in many different fields, including transportation.
America needs new transportation ideas, and that requires students who know a thing or two about STEM. To draw up the plans that incorporate those innovative ideas, we need students who know a thing or two about STEM. And, to transform those plans into reality, we need, yes, students who know a thing or two about STEM.
One transportation professional who understands the need to encourage young people to pursue education and work in STEM fields is Captain Mark Kelly. You may recall Captain Kelly as the astronaut who piloted two Space Shuttle missions and commanded another two, including Endeavour's final mission in 2011, just four months after his wife, US Representative Gabby Giffords, was severely injured in an assassination attempt.
Captain Kelly began his academic work at the US Merchant Marine Academy, graduating in 1986 with a BS in Marine Engineering. After a career as a Naval aviator--including flying 39 combat missions in Operation Desert Storm--and before becoming a Shuttle pilot, he also earned a Master's Degree in Aeronautical Engineering.
We are happy to have him. Very few have demonstrated the dual commitment to science and public service in as visible and bold a way as Captain Mark Kelly, and I, for one can't wait to hear what he has to say.
Given the quality of Captain Kelly's character, I expect a shout-out or two to the STEM teachers who influenced his path, teachers whose contributions continue to make a difference in countless ways.
If you remember a teach who made a difference in your life, Teacher Appreciation Week isn't over. Please use your Facebook status to send your thanks. Or reach out on Twitter using the hashtag #thankateacher.