January 28, 2022 – Collinsville Middle School 7th grade math teacher Tanjanika Foster was recognized by the Challenger Learning Center St. Louis on January 27 as a 2022 honoree in the Inspiring Teacher Award program.
To mark the 36th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, the Challenger Learning Center recognized seven local teachers who were nominated by a current or former student for inspiring them to pursue a career in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics).
The virtual event was streamed live on the Challenger Learning Center’s YouTube channel.
Ms. Foster was nominated by former student Kayla Stevenson (CHS Class of 2009). Stevenson submitted the nomination late one night after seeing a call for nominations on social media. She knew immediately Foster was a deserving candidate for the Inspiring Teacher Award.
“[Ms. Foster] can see potential in her students and always pushes them to reach their potential,” said Stevenson. “After having her as a math teacher in 7th grade, I continued to stay in touch with her in 8th grade, high school, college and even today. She always pushed me to the next level. She never gave up on me, never judged me and always saw what I was capable of becoming.”
Stevenson entered the military following high school graduation and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Kaplan University. Recently, she contemplated a career change and turned to Ms. Foster for advice and support. Today, Stevenson is pursuing a STEM career as a respiratory therapist thanks to her mentor since middle school.
“Tangie has always been there for me – in good times and in bad times. I’m not the only student she has influenced. She goes out of her way to attend her students’ events outside school. She helps them study. I called her one night and she was busy online in a group helping current students prepare for a test. She goes above and beyond every day,” said Stevenson.
On being selected as a Challenger Learning Center award recipient, Tanjanika Foster said, “I am surprised to be nominated but it is nice to have acknowledgement. To be honest, all teachers are in need of acknowledgement right now and I want to share this award with all of them. I believe that some students are with you through a school year and some are with you for years to come. I love teaching math and the challenge of making students love math also.”
The Challenger Center Inspiring Teacher Award is in honor of the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger who set out on January 28, 1986 for a mission to “broaden educational horizons and promote the advancement of scientific knowledge.” A member of the crew, teacher Christa McAuliffe, would be the first civilian to go into space. She was scheduled to teach several lessons from the Space Shuttle to America’s classrooms. Unfortunately, Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff. Following the tragedy, the families of the crew founded the Challenger Center for Space Science Education to carry on the spirit of their loved ones.
The 2022 Challenger Learning Center St. Louis St. Louis Inspiring Teacher Award is supported by Emerson, the Clark-Fox Family Foundation, Blueprint4 and Missouri University of Science and Technology.
The 2022 Challenger Learning Center Inspiring Teacher Award recipients in St. Louis are:
Dan Easterday, Nokomis High School (retired)
Tanjanika Foster, 7th-grade math teacher, Collinsville Middle School
Tiffanie Fowlkes-Comninellis, Biology teacher, Hazelwood Central High School
Paul Wallis, Physics teacher, Desoto Senior High
Christopher Sellers, Physics and Computer Science teacher, Jennings Senior High
Martha Warren, Science teacher, Jennings Senior High
Cherron White, Science teacher, Jennings Senior High.