Kanawha Co. Educator Receives Award Named in Memory of Former Rocket Boys Teacher

November 25, 2008

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Roger Samples, a fifth-grade teacher at Richmond Elementary in South Charleston, is the 2008 recipient of the West Virginia Teacher Achievement Award from the Clarksburg-based Prodigy Foundation.


The award recognizes West Virginia educators who have overcome challenging obstacles in their careers and have had a positive impact on students. The award is in honor of Freida J. Riley, who taught math, science and physics at Big Creek High School during the space race of the 1950s and 1960s, and later died at age 31 from Hodgkin’s disease. She inspired her students to overcome the limited opportunities of their era and environment to aspire to fulfill their dreams. Her students included Homer Hickam, Jimmy Carroll, Roy Lee Cooke, Willie Rose and Quentin Wilson, whose lives were depicted in Hickam’s novel the Rocket Boys and the subsequent film October Sky.


"I have been fortunate to grow up in the same mountains of West Virginia, with the privilege to teach for the past 26 years and the honor to be in the same position to make a difference in the lives of students, just as Ms. Riley did so many years ago," said Samples, who has continued to teach after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991.

The West Virginia Teacher Achievement Award for West Virginia teachers is sponsored by The Prodigy Foundation, in conjunction with Freedom Bank, the Greater Clarksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Fairmont State GEAR UP and RESA VII. The Prodigy Foundation was started in 2006 by Cooke, one of the six original Rocket Boys.

The Prodigy Foundation award is not affiliated with the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, which sponsors a national award named after Riley. For more information about the West Virginia award, contact Kathryn Titus with The Prodigy Foundation at (304) 622-2157 or the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.

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