Miss Freida J. Riley was a science and math teacher from Coalwood, West Virginia, who, for most of her career, taught while suffering from Hodgkin's Disease. Her impact upon her students is captured in the 1999 award-winning film October Sky, in which she is portrayed by Laura Dern. October Sky is based on the book The Rocket Boys, authored by one of Miss Riley's students, Homer Hickam. In the coal-mining town of Coalwood, Miss Riley inspired her students to overcome the limited opportunities of their era and environment to aspire to fulfill their dreams. Learn more about Rocket Boys and Homer Hickman
The Freida J. Riley Teacher Award annually recognizes an American teacher who overcomes adversity or makes an enormous sacrifice in order to positively impact students. It is given in honor of Freida J. Riley, the teacher who inspired the Rocket Boys and is depicted in the film October Sky. Miss Riley died of Hodgkin's disease at the age of 31.
The Freida J. Riley Award & Program was created and written by the National Museum of Education, inspired by the compelling life of an astounding teacher, Miss Freida J. Riley. This with the permission of her sister, Iva Riley Dean.