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NASA Astronaut and Teacher Named NEA's 2008 Friend of Education

Idaho educator Barbara Morgan inspires students to reach beyond their dreams

WASHINGTON - July 04, 2008 -

Barbara Morgan, teacher and NASA astronaut, received the NEA 2008 Friend of Education award today at the National Education Association's Representative Assembly.

"Barbara Morgan's passion, perseverance and never ending quest for learning serve as an inspiration to students and teachers around the globe," said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association.  "I applaud her for truly taking education to the next level and going beyond the four walls of a classroom to teach children and inspire them to dream."

Morgan participated in the Teacher in Space program as the backup to Christa McAuliffe for the Space Shuttle Challenger mission.  She later trained as a mission specialist and flew on STS-118 in August 2007.  Upon completing her mission into space, she carried out her first space education assignment and told students in attendance to "Reach for your dreams … the sky is no limit."

Morgan's teaching career began in 1974 as a reading and math teacher on the Flathead Indian Reservation at Arlee Elementary School in Arlee, Mont.  She also taught reading and math at McCall-Donnelly Elementary School in McCall, Idaho, and lived in Quito, Ecuador, for a year where she taught English and science to third-grade students.

Following McAuliffe's death in the Challenger tragedy, Morgan became the Teacher in Space designee and traveled throughout the country performing duties such as public speaking, educational counseling, curriculum design, and serving on the National Science Foundation's Federal Task Force for Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering.  In 1998, Morgan was named NASA's first professional educator astronaut, blending the duties of a space shuttle mission specialist with those of a teacher to reach out to students and the public.

Since its inception in 1972, the Friend of Education Award has attained the status of NEA's highest tribute.  Each year, NEA bestows this prestigious award on an individual or organization whose leadership, acts, and support have significantly benefited education, education employees, or students on a national scale.

Previous recipients of the award include U.S. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and William Jefferson Clinton; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. The award has also been presented to U.S. senators and representatives, governors, educators, civil rights activists, authors, and an athlete.

NEA members are in Washington as part of the NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly. The Representative Assembly, one of the largest democratic decision-making bodies in the world, runs through Sunday, July 6. Nearly 10,000 educators from around the country will discuss, debate and vote on critical issues facing public education.

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Contact: Christiana Campos  (202) 822-7823