Former Michigan Teacher of the Year Flies with Thunderbirds

June 27, 2024

Colleen Cain, the third-place winner of AFA’s 2023 National Teacher of the Year award, was named a distinguished “Hometown Hero” by the famed Thunderbirds, earning a flight with the demonstration team—even getting her name printed on the plane.

Cain, a 7th grade science teacher at Larson Middle School in Troy, Mich., was first recognized by AFA Michigan’s Mt. Clemens “Selfridge” Chapter as their Teacher of the Year. She has taught for more than 18 years, providing her students with a variety of authentic science opportunities. As a National Geographic Certified Teacher who focuses on developing student explorer mindsets, Cain has helped her students focus on tackling the earth’s single-use plastic waste problem. Her students have grown tomatoes from the International Space Station through the Tomatosphere program to investigate the impact of microgravity on plant growth.  

“Colleen earned her flight as ‘Thunderbird 8 Bravo,’ flying during the Selfridge ANG Base Open House and Air Show,” said AFA’s Michigan State President Doug Slocum, who nominated Cain for the opportunity. “What a great way for our 2023 Michigan State AFA Teacher of the Year to highlight her new role as an honorary member of the USAF ‘Ambassadors in Blue.’ She did every single maneuver with ease and pulled 9.2 Gs with no problems! A true AFA ambassador and USAF Thunderbirds demo team honorary member of the 9G Club.”

 “Thank you to America’s team for the endless inspiration and an unforgettable day immersed in the incredible and imspiring skills of the Thunderbirds,” Cain said. “I’m forever thankful for the invitation and the ride of a lifetime.”