Blogs  |  6.10.2024

Mentorship in Motion: Becca Manis’s Impact on Her Fellow Flight Directors

Challenger Center

Becca Manis, the Vice President of Education at Challenger Learning Center of Colorado, has been an integral part of Challenger Center for 25 years. Now, she channels her incredible expertise and experience into mentoring fellow Flight Directors across the network, sparking inspiration and leadership throughout the community.

What’s your favorite part about being a Challenger Learning Center Flight Director? 

Watching students interact with the Mission and seeing the proverbial light bulb go on is so much fun. It is an unparalleled experience for kids. Where else are they tasked with adult-like jobs that require them to adapt on the fly, coupled with teamwork, communication, a little bit of pressure, and the bells and whistles of a simulator?

Who is someone who inspires and/or mentors you? 

I am inspired by my parents. They both have a fantastic work ethic, are generous and creative, and are always trying to learn something new and make improvements in the space around them. They taught me to always leave a place better than you found it, and I try to live that out daily.

How have you taken on a role as a mentor for other flight directors? 

After working at Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana for several years, I joined a team that worked to train Flight Directors at new Challenger Learning Centers – and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life! I was with educators who were excited about and extremely invested in their day-to-day interactions with students. The days of the proverbial “teacher’s lounge” were gone, and we were all part of the same mission to inspire and engage students in thinking about their future. I am proud to say that I have visited just about 30 Challenger Learning Centers through training and conferences and have trained around 50 Flight Directors.

Flying missions and delivering virtual programs is like teaching one of the best lessons ever, the one you wait all school year to teach, except we get to do it every day! Sharing this passion and the behind-the-scenes know-how with new Flight Directors and other Centers is so rewarding.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for new flight directors and how do you support them? 

For new Flight Directors, the space simulator and all its technology can be daunting. Sometimes, technology does its own thing, and there’s a huge fear that this could potentially ruin the experience for a busload of kids who just traveled 45 minutes to get to you. I think that giving Flight Directors the understanding of the full breadth of the Mission, all the ins and outs of stations where the students work, the 50/50 role of the teacher/actor, and the basic workings of the simulator is critical for equipping a new Flight Director to feel confident in their role. Then, making sure that the crew knows who to reach out to when something is beyond their training, is just as important.

Why do you think mentorship is important to the CLC network?  

Mentorship and networking are not just important in this job, but essential. The role of a Flight Director is not a jump-in-and-go kind of thing. Our programs are unique and have the ability to really change the course of kids’ lives. Just look at our alumni! Leveraging the experience and knowledge of Flight Directors across the board is the only way to run a center.

Were you interested in STEM subjects when you were a child?

I was always an outdoor kid, investigating the woods behind our house and spending lots of time watching wildlife. I also enjoyed working on projects with my parents who could (and still can) fix almost anything. We never called a repairman. We figured it out. However, I never thought of it as a career option. I sincerely felt like my choices were to be a teacher, flight attendant, or nurse – as it seemed like those were the careers open to girls. Had I really known or dug into other options, marine biology, zoology, or biology lab work would likely have been my choice.

What’s one of your most memorable and impactful Challenger Center moments?

On January 28, 1986, I was in my junior English class, when I heard about the accident. I went home that day, and my family watched the new coverage for the rest of the night.  I remember watching Christa’s mom, Grace Corrigan, and I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. Flash forward to 2002, I was in Framingham, MA, with the Challenger Center training team. We were invited to Grace’s house for a small get-together. It was surreal to meet Grace and Christa’s brother, Christopher, and to share a meal with them, in the house where Christa grew up. I felt blessed and validated in my choice to take my teaching career in a different direction.  Grace shared that she was grateful to us, and the whole network, that we were continuing the Mission her daughter was so passionate about. It was a full circle moment for me, and I am happy to be here, continuing that work some 20 years later.