A Smile as Big as the Moon: A Special Education Teacher, His Class, and Their Inspiring Journey Through U.S. Space Camp

( 20 )

Overview

"Besides being a football coach at his Michigan high school, Mike Kersjes taught special education classes, dealing with children whose disabilities included Tourette's syndrome, Down's syndrome, dyslexia, eating disorders, and a variety of emotional problems." "One autumn Kersjes got the outlandish idea that his students would benefit from going to Space Camp, where, in conjunction with NASA, high school students compete in a variety of activities similar to those experienced by astronauts in training for space shuttle missions. There was only
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A Smile as Big as the Moon: A Special Education Teacher, His Class, and Their Inspiring Journey Through U.S. Space Camp

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Overview

"Besides being a football coach at his Michigan high school, Mike Kersjes taught special education classes, dealing with children whose disabilities included Tourette's syndrome, Down's syndrome, dyslexia, eating disorders, and a variety of emotional problems." "One autumn Kersjes got the outlandish idea that his students would benefit from going to Space Camp, where, in conjunction with NASA, high school students compete in a variety of activities similar to those experienced by astronauts in training for space shuttle missions. There was only one problem: This program had been specifically designed for gifted and talented students, the best and the brightest from America's most privileged high schools." Kersjes believed that, given a chance, his kids could do as well as anybody, and with remarkable persistence he broke down one barrier after another, from his own principal's office to the inner sanctum of NASA, until Space Camp opened its doors, on an experimental basis, to special ed students. After nine months of rigorous preparation, during which the class molded itself into a working team, they arrived at Space Camp, where they turned in a performance so startling, so surprising, that it will leave the reader breathless.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It's a heartening story, sure to inspire other teachers struggling with students who often seem beyond their reach . . . Dramatic and moving . . . The students end up winning a major award, but their real victory, of course, is their newfound confidence and sense of accomplishment."—Teacher magazine

"Genuinely inspirational . . . McKinney and Kersjes witnessed a remarkable transformation: kids who were plagued by numerous, often severe emotional, familial, and learning problems became a cohesive team that placed in the top three in all three of the camp's competitions . . . A remarkable story."—Booklist

"Like the U.S. Space Program, this is a compelling story that shows what can be accomplished when you are only limited by imagination and ingenuity. The reader can readily sense the personal dedication and love that 'Coach' has for his students."—Bob Springer, astronaut

"It's hard not to fall under the spell of this Michigan-based David-and-Goliath tale."—The Detroit Free Press

"A testament to how perseverance can get results and how children can perform surprising feats in a system that doesn't always work to help all children."—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"A Smile as Big as the Moon is a terrific book. At once uplifting and thought provoking, it pulls no punches in depicting the hardships encountered by a group of special education students and the teacher who believed in them. A remarkable and unforgettable story."—Jerry Bruckheimer

"An inspiration."—The Roanoke Times

"Heartfelt . . . moving, reveling in the students' strength and quirks, never blinking at their untimely failures."—The Anniston Star

"Those of us who have witnessed Mike's wonderful work are very happy that they are evident and celebrated in this great book."—Tom Rooney, president of Team Lemieux, LLC

"Shoot for the moon—and land among the stars . . . Mike Kersjes has done that in his book."—Captain Gene Cernan, Apollo XVII

"Kersjes's refreshing, heart-warming account proves that faith and vision can yield great things."—Publishers Weekly

"An inspiring David-and-Goliath tale."—The Christian Science Monitor

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From a magazine article, educator Kersjes learned that students from all over the country could spend six days training and living like astronauts at Space Camp, a 450-acre theme park, museum and educational center at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama. Knowing his high school students would relish visiting the facility, he pitched the idea to a colleague; she questioned his sanity. He mentioned it to his principal, who responded, "`You should be preparing these students... for life beyond this school, not chasing some crazy dream.'" Why would an administrator be bitterly opposed to such an enriching experience? Because these students had developmental disabilities like Down's and Tourette's syndromes, as well as emotional problems. Despite the opposition, Kersjes was determined to give his students the experience of a lifetime. With co-teacher Robynn McKinney and parent chaperones, Kersjes loaded 20 students, age 14 through 17, onto a plane from Grand Rapids, Mich., making them the first group of special education students to attend Space Camp. Kersjes recounts that most of these kids had never allowed their reach to exceed their grasp, yet there they stood, ready to take on an activity that would daunt many adults. The obstacles were plenty. From the NASA education program's initial unwillingness, to the $50,000 needed for everyone to attend the camp, they met each challenge with enthusiasm and dignity, racking up some awards along the way. Kersjes's refreshing, heart-warming account proves that faith and vision can yield great things. Agent, Mickey Freiberg. (Feb.) Forecast: Jerry Bruckheimer (for Walt Disney Pictures) has purchased film rights to this uplifting story. Handselling by store clerks to junior high and high school teachers should boost sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A high school special education teacher in Michigan, Kersjes faced enormous odds when he decided that he wanted his class to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, AL, a program aimed at providing simulated astronaut training for gifted students. His 20 students had a wide range of learning and emotional disabilities and were stigmatized by other students and teachers. Readers will be genuinely moved by the many funny, sad, irritating, and even frustrating scenes, as Kersjes relates the numerous bureaucratic and educational stumbling blocks he encountered trying to convince administrators at his school and at Space Camp that his students could benefit and succeed in the challenging program. Once those barriers were overcome, he faced huge problems raising money for travel and, more importantly, preparing his students for the rigors of five days of training. Their individual and group triumphs make for a feel-good tale that's highly recommended for academic and public libraries. Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The inspirational account of a special-education teacher in a small-town high school who overcame great obstacles to bring his class to NASA's space camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250012623
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/17/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 317,020
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mike Kersjes is president of Space Is Special Inc., a not for profit organization that helps special education students enhance their science and mathematics skills using space as a motivational theme. Mike has been a special education teacher and football coach for over 20 years with the Forest Hills Public School system and is currently working with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the University of California, Irvine. The film rights for his book have been sold to Jerry Bruckheimer for Walt Disney Pictures. He lives in Grand Rapids MI.

Joe Layden is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best selling author. He lives in upstate New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 20 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(16)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2012

    A Miracle?

    About the time you think you've lost faith in the human spirit, a true to life story comes along to shake your senses and revive your optimism. This book achieves that goal; you don't want to miss it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012

    I reccommend this book

    This is the kind of story that touchs your heart. I don't mean to spoil the book for you, if you hadn't read it. But in the beginning these special ed kids got bullied and thought of themselves as if they did not belong in the world. But when I finshed the book it completly touched my heart. I am very happy for those special ed kids in real life. I am also very proud of them learning how to not think of themselves as failure and disappointment. Ben schmidt reminds me of my cousin who also has down syndrome. My cousin is always very happy and supportive. She is so sweet and everyone at her school may not accept her... but she does not fuss over the past. She looks ahead in the future to see what life goals she can accomplish. Mike Kersjes helped those special.ed kids believe in themselves. What I learned from Mike was that when you look beyond your dreams and you work toward the effort of working hard to accomplish that dream. That is no longer a dream it's reality. You may come upon challenges but when you go past that challenge you feel pride and courage in yourself

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2013

    Good

    I actually went to the camp in the book and we saw the movie of this book. It was a great read and it was cool to have actually expirienced what they did in real life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2013

    Wow!

    This story makes me proud to be a special education teacher! Bravo to this amazing teacher and his amazing students!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    Great, inspirational story!

    I was only 7 years old when this happened but these teachers and students are my inspiration!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    Great book

    This book is a great read.

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  • Posted March 30, 2012

    A great book

    This is a great story about a great teacher and his students, a great story, worth reading.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2012

    Inspireing

    Thi story is great brcause they gave it a shot and ende up winning s you never quit. I saw the movie too on frbuary 3 rd andit wa great hope you will like it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2012

    AWESOME/PRAISE FOR TEACHERS OF OUR GIFTED YOUTH

    Books just don't get any better than this. The movie is on Hallmark at 8 pm cst Sat the 3rd of Feb. Can't wait to see it. Hope the movie leaves me with the same warmth and happiness as the book did.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2007

    Insparational

    I think that this experience is completely insperational because having to go through special ed like some of these children is hard and having a teacher wanting to bring them some where like space camp. On top of it all I truly think that other special ed. teachers should think about doing something simmilar with there students.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2007

    Achieving a Goal

    This is a book that tells you that some teacher are more sensitive to their students needs than others.You can achieve any goal or any disability that you might have.And school is more enjoyable if teachers and students don't discriminate against special education program.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2007

    A highly recommended book

    I enjoyed reading this book. It was very interesting and I did not want to put the book down. I wanted to keep reading to find out how each section would end. I felt proud of the students for what they did and how much time and dedication the teacher put in making sure the students got in to space camp. I would recommend this book to teachers, students and parents, who will all read the book and will have diferent perspectivs about the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2007

    Pure Excellence.

    After reading the true story, A Smile As Big As The Moon, by Michael Kersjes, you will see this teacher go above and beyond for his class of special education students, but by the end of the book you forget about all of there physical and mental problems. He runs into a few problems only the councilman believed in this teachers dream to allow these kids to go to space camp. These kids had great spirit and determination just like their teacher. This book should be read by teachers, parents, and students. It was an excellent book and even better to know its a true story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2006

    Good book

    I write 'A Smile as big as the Moon' by Mike Kersjes. This is a really good book. Kerjers and other teachers tried to take their students to Space Camp. At the first try, they didn't have enough money to let the kids to. But luckily then Dan Trierweiler one of the manager in Burger King got 50 thousands dollars from donations. He used all that money to let kids go to Space Cam. At the end of the book, all the kids were successful. I would give this book 5 stars because that will let the readers know how hard students with special education learn and that they can be good students.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2006

    Highly recommended.

    A Smile as Big as the Moon, by Mike Kersjes is a true story of a wonderful teacher and his twenty gifted children. The true story will easily give you the concept of a true excellent teacher, one who goes above and beyond the ordinary school teachers. Not only is Mike Kersjes, the author and teacher of a wonderful book, but he is a role model for anyone trying to accomplish a difficult task or goal. Reading this book will make the reader realize that anything is possible. The message is don¿t let anything stand in your way, just go for the goal and reach for your dreams. Not only is the teacher/author a wonderful role model of this book, but the special education students are too. These students proved that they are capable of anything and everything equal to that of ¿normal students.¿ As children, nothing should be beyond their reach, and these children completely proved that theory to the readers. Having read the entire book, I have closed the book with a lot more knowledge and inspiration than I had in the beginning. I highly recommend this book to all students, teachers, and adults. This book will make you keep on reading and I promise you will enjoy the book. Mike Kersjes is a good author I personally loved the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2006

    A must read

    Mike Kersjes's book, A Smile As Big As The Moon, is about himself, his special education students, and their journey to Space Camp. They run into a lot of opposition. The principle and the people at Space Camp were against these kids,and said no to the idea.From the school administration, all the way to NASA, they clear one hurdle after another. Kersjes believed in his students and challenged them to reach beyond their grasp. These kids with a host of disabilities, such as Down's Syndrome,Tourette's syndrome,dyslexia, eating disorders,and all kinds of emotional problems, rose to the challenge. They stepped outside their comfort zones and discovered who they were and what they could accomplish. This is a fantastic book! Mike Kersjes and his 'special' kids are truly inspiring.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2005

    My smile was almost as big as the moon!

    This book is fantastic. I laughed and I cried with true happiness for those children. It is a lesson for ALL of us. I sure feel differently about the special ed teachers and students now. Thank you Mike Kersjes!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2002

    A powerful and inspiring book

    After reading this book by Micheal Kersjes, I can only say bravo! Mr. Kersjes has written a wonderful story of the power of the human spirit. I have found a new respect for all special education teachers. He shows in this book that faith and hard work can accomplish anything. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys stories of triumph over adversity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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