It’s hard to overstate our teachers’ hard work in making classes engaging and relevant this year. If you were a student, I’m sure that moments in certain classes come to mind where “another Zoom meeting” was made fun. Teachers demonstrated chemistry labs virtually, explained mathematics concepts through muffled masks and taught theater classes with students 6 feet apart. Although students and parents want to put the infamous 2020 behind them this summer, it would be wrong to forget the teachers who made the last year more bearable.

One way to commemorate the impact of our teachers is by buying the Christa McAuliffe Silver Dollar coin. The coin is in memory of Christa McAuliffe, a teacher who was chosen to be an astronaut and payload specialist on the Challenger flight. She planned to communicate with her students and hold tours of the space shuttles. Sadly, she passed away when the shuttle was engulfed in fire a short while after take off.

In the aftermath, many schools and scholarships have been created in Christa McAuliffe’s honor, and she has inspired countless students to pursue STEM. One of these students is Dean Kammen, inventor and founder of the FIRST Tech Challenge, a nonprofit organization where robotics teams compete against each other by designing, building and programming robots.

Therefore, it is fitting that a portion of the proceeds from the silver dollar coin will go to the FIRST tech challenge. This is personal for me because I joined our school’s robotics team three years ago, and I have been participating in FIRST ever since. We had to build robots that could stack blocks, hang on boxes, detect colors, etc. Learning how to design a claw to grip a triangular prism versus one to grip a sphere taught me the nuanced thought that goes into building. I learned to never accept that it was “impossible” for a device to function and taught myself to redesign it instead.

Although there was an emphasis on building off ideas that already existed, there was a desire to solve a problem in a completely original way just for the thrill of it. FIRST taught me that innovation was exciting and vast, and it piqued my interest in engineering. The FIRST tech challenge has motivated thousands of students to love and advance STEM. All of this is an extension of Christa McAuliffe’s legacy.

Although the coin is named in honor of Christa McAuliffe, I think it would be a disservice if we did not hold it in the memory of all teachers. Most teachers work silently, and this coin is in honor of those who influenced us without us realizing it. If you buy this coin in the memory of one of your teachers, you are expanding their legacy to include giving educational opportunities to underprivileged children.

Arushi Katyal, of Chesterfield, is a rising senior at John Burroughs High School.

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