A Smile as Big as the Moon
A Smile as Big as the Moon: A Special Education Teacher, His Class, and Their Inspiring Journey Through U.S. Space Camp by Mike Kersjes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Remember — don’t be afraid to go after your dreams. It may take a lot of hard work on your part, but if you’re willing to make the sacrifices, there is nothing you can’t accomplish.”
In 1989, Mike Kersjes and his teaching partner, Robynn McKinney, got the idea to send their class of special education students to Space Camp — an opportunity generally reserved for the best and brightest students. After overcoming initial obstacles, fundraising struggles, personal trials, and opposition from within and outside of the school, they spent a year of intense preparation training the twenty students in their high school special education class to be ready for their week long Space Camp.
This is a great book to show teachers and students alike — special ed or not — how much students can accomplish when they have people who believe in them and are determined to see them succeed. It’s an inspirational story of kids who came together as a team when the odds were against them, a true underdog success tale. I enjoyed reading about what they did during their months of training at school to prepare them for the challenges of Space Camp, and my favorite part was the section covering their week at the camp, where they were completing missions and competing against “gifted” students and holding their own.
I was, however, a bit disappointed in parts at the author’s brusqueness, that bordered on downright rudeness. I’m all for being blunt and honest, but anyone who opposed his Space Camp plan was portrayed as being excessively villainous, and he referred to them rather disrespectfully — using descriptions such as “gossipmonger,” “ego-driven,” “bitter and lazy,” “sadists,” “dirt-bags,” and “white-trash” to describe some of them. For this reason, some of the first section of the book really rubbed me the wrong way; it didn’t paint the author in a particularly positive light, especially since many of the people he was referring to were other teachers and students in his school.
Also, I would have LOVED to hear more about the individual students themselves. A few were highlighted throughout the book, but I only got a real idea of the personality and strengths of four or five of them, out of a group of twenty.
Overall: A feel-good tale of underdog students overcoming opposition, working hard to their goals, and exceeding everyone’s expectations.