ABC Television Network airs its Hallmark’s Hall of Fame feature “A Smile As Big As the Moon,” an inspiring story of a high school football coach and special education teacher who took a class of special education students to NASA’s Space Camp, Sunday, January 29 from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. EST.
Space Camp is a competitive education program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Even though it’s designed for gifted science students, Mike, a special education teacher and football coach at a Michigan high school, decides participating in the science program would do wonders for the self-esteem of his students – especially Ben, a boy with Down syndrome, who dreams of becoming an astronaut.
Aided by fellow teacher Robynn McKinney, Mike faces incredible obstacles in trying to make his dream become reality. School administrators oppose the plan as being too expensive. Space Camp officials are skeptical: They’ve never had special-ed kids apply before.
At long last, Mike and his students are given the green light. And then the real challenges begin, over nine months of rigorous teaching, learning, training and fund-raising. The kids are belittled and in some cases bullied by their fellow classmates, but Mike finds a way to keep them on track. He even convinces the school’s football team, his other students, to help them prepare for the intense physical challenges of Space Camp. The class finally leaves for Huntsville, Alabama. Will kids with Down syndrome, Tourette’s, learning disabilities and emotional problems be able to leave their baggage behind, coalesce into a team, and compete with some of the brightest students from across the country?
The movie, which stars John Corbett, is based on the memoir by teacher Mike Kersjes with Joe Layden in the 1980′s. It gives an inside look into the way one educator empowered special needs students who were often bullied by others to find compassion and respect for everyone.