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After reading an article on NASA's "Space Camp," high school football coach and special education teacher Mike Kersjes decided that this program - where students undergo tests used to prepare astronauts for the Space Shuttle - was just the experience his special education students needed. There was just one problem: convincing administrators, parents, and the students themselves that even with disabilities like Tourette Syndrome, Downs Syndrome, and dyslexia they could succeed in a program designed for gifted students. With limitless faith in his students and unswerving persistence, Kersjes finally got his kids to Camp, where they turned in a performance no one will ever forget. Here is the whole remarkable story.
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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"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