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Class Tapes Tribute To Teacher Astronaut

February 8, 1986

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) _ Sixth-grade students at Kennedy Elementary School hope to provide some comfort to the family of Christa McAuliffe by sending a videotaped message of support to her husband and children in Concord, N.H.

The 84 students captured their feelings Friday on 15 minutes of videotape to be sent to the family of the teacher who died along with six other astronauts when the space shuttle Challenger exploded last week.

They talked about honor, pride, dreams, bravery, courage, and the emptiness Mrs. McAuliffe’s surviving relatives must feel.

″They need some comfort, someone behind them,″ said student Kyle Koeppler, who suggested the idea of the taping last week when a Green Bay television crew was in his classroom talking to students about their feelings.

Sixth-grade teacher Gwen Mack directed every student to write a poem or composition on the subject, and student Gregg Ponozzo got his uncle, Dick Grindatti, 20, to record the reading of seven poems and nine compositions that were chosen as the best.

″We would like to say to you, that if you feel sad some lonely day, find someone to talk to, to fill the empty place in your heart with laughter, joy and love,″ Maureen McFarlane said.

″When Christa died, it must have felt like part of you had died too, but don’t feel that way. Think about what good that part of you has done for your country. Don’t feel lonely, the spirit of Christa still lives on in everyone’s heart,″ she added.

Jason Delvaux talked about Mrs. McAuliffe as a teacher, mother and astronaut.

″I am sure that the rest of my classmates and the rest of the world share my feelings and would like to tell you to go on with life and do the best you can,″ he said.

Trinidad Hernandez talked about space.

″Christa had a dream, and she chose to fulfill her dream,″ she said. ″Christa wasn’t only doing this for her country, but for herself, her students and family.″

Nicole Pauly read her poem.

″So don’t feel blue, you should be proud,″ she said. ″Your wife, your mom is thinking of you on her heavenly cloud.″

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