President Obama Honors the 2012 National Teacher of the Year and Finalists

Uploaded by whitehouse on 24.04.2012

The President: Everybody, please have a seat.
Have a seat.
Welcome to the White House.
Before we get started, I want to recognize one of our greatest
advocates for education and for teachers,
our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is here.
Give him a big round of applause.
Now, let's face it, a lot of important people visit
the White House.
But to young people in classrooms around the country,
nobody is more important than the men and women that we honor
here today -- the State and National Teachers of the Year.
These are the kind of teachers who change lives forever.
I wouldn't be here today if it were not for teachers like these
who challenged me, and pushed me, and put up with me,
and inspired me -- and set me straight when they had to.
And I think everybody here can say the exact same thing.
Teachers matter.
That's why I often tell young people: If you want a guarantee
that you're making a difference every single day,
become a teacher.
A teacher is the key to a child reaching their potential.
And if we need more proof -- (baby chatters) Yes, it's true.
She agrees.
And if we need more proof that teachers matter,
all we've got to do is look around this room.
I'm honored to be here with teachers like Gay Barnes,
from Madison, Alabama, one of the four finalists for
this award.
There's Angela Wilson, who teaches children of military
families at Vicenza Middle School, in Italy.
Not a bad place to hang out.
There is Alvin Aureliano Davis, who teaches music in Florida.
And there is our 2012 National Teacher of the Year,
Rebecca Mieliwocki, from Burbank, California.
So give Rebecca a big round of applause.
And this is Rebecca's crew right here --
-- who are very proud.
Auntie and cousins and --
Ms. Mieliwocki: My boss.
The President: Oh, boss.
Even more important.
Now, you might say that teaching is in Rebecca's DNA,
because both her parents taught in public schools.
She saw how hard they worked, how much time and energy they
devoted to their jobs, how much they gave to their students.
But when she was 18, of course, the last thing she wanted to be
was a teacher.
What teenager wants to do what their parents are doing?
So in college, she really rebelled and went to law school.
Now, she then tried a few different careers after that.
After studying to become a lawyer,
she went into publishing and floral design and
event planning.
But ultimately, she found herself drawn back to the
classroom, and her students are so lucky that she did.
She's got high expectations for her 7th graders and for herself,
but she also knows that school can be fun.
And that fits a personality that she describes as "a 12 year-old
goofball dying to get out."
And I have to say, she was a little goofy when I met her.
She was back there teasing me and asking Arne about our
basketball games and stuff.
You can tell she's just got a wonderful spirit.
And so in addition to everything they learn in her English class,
Rebecca's students have had a chance to film their own
adaptations of an O. Henry short story.
They worked with a local writer to develop five-minute plays,
which professional actors then performed.
Rebecca has led field trips to the science center,
to the aquarium, to Chinatown, even the La Brea tar pits --
that's a trip you really don't want to lose track of anybody.
Only one kid?
They never showed up that morning --
-- I was wondering where they were.
Rebecca knows that education also is a responsibility that
begins at home.
So she hosts family nights to get parents involved.
She sends home weekly parent memos so moms and dads know
what's going on in school.
She maintains a Facebook page for her class,
where families can get information and updates 24/7.
And all this extra work makes a huge difference.
When kids finish a year in Rebecca's class,
they're better readers and writers than when they started.
But even more than that, they know how important they are.
And they understand how bright their futures can be.
And they know that if they work at it,
there's no limit to what they can achieve.
So Rebecca is the definition of "above and beyond."
And so many teachers around the country are like her.
She throws herself into her work for a simple reason: She knows
that her students depend on her.
And as she puts it, "Life is too short and too difficult to have
anything less than the most engaged,
enthusiastic teachers in schools."
I couldn't agree more.
And I know Arne couldn't agree more.
I also want to point something else out.
Rebecca said in applying for this award,
she said that in some ways it's harder than ever to
be an educator.
Even in the best of times, teachers are asked to do
more with less.
And today, with our economy still recovering from the
worst recession since the Great Depression,
states and communities have to stretch budgets
tighter than ever.
So we've got a particular responsibility as elected
officials in difficult times, instead of bashing teachers
to support them.
We should be giving states the resources to keep good teachers
on the job and reward the best ones.
And we should grant our educators the flexibility
to teach with creativity and passion in the classroom and
not just teaching to the test.
And we should allow schools to replace teachers, who,
even with the right resources and support,
just aren't helping our kids to learn.
Because we've all got something at stake here.
Our parents, our grandparents -- they didn't build the world's
most prosperous economy and the strongest middle class in
the world out of thin air.
It started with a world-class education system.
That was the foundation.
And in the long run, no issue will have a bigger impact in
our success as a country and the success of our citizens.
So every day, when teachers like you put in long hours,
or dig into your own pockets to pay for school supplies,
or tweak lessons so they're even better than they were last year,
you're not just serving your schools or your students,
you're also serving your country.
And you're helping to preserve the basic promise of America,
that no matter who you are, where you come from,
what you look like, what your last name is, you can succeed.
You can make it if you try, if you put in the effort.
So on behalf of the American people,
thank you all for everything that you do.
And congratulations.
I'm going to present this spiffy-looking award to
Rebecca Mieliwocki.
Rebecca Mieliwocki: That is very heavy, that award right there.
I have a little bit of laryngitis this morning,
so please forgive my croaky voice.
Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind introduction,
and especially for taking your time to honor American educators
in the way you have.
Inviting us here to the White House to be recognized by you is
such a proud moment for us, for our families,
and for our students.
Your commitment to us, to American children and to the
ideals inherent in a free public education are tremendously
inspiring, and I couldn't be prouder
that you're my President.
Thank you, Secretary Duncan, for being a dedicated advocate
to the strengthening of American education in all
of its forms and facets.
Thank you so much.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you to my Burbank school family and the
California delegation for coming all this way,
and for supporting me every step of the way,
and for cultivating a place where I can do great work with
students, students who are right now taking their state tests,
so go Yellow Jackets, do your best to make us really proud.
I know you're going to.
Thank you to my parents, Bill and Sue,
for coming here today to see a dream come true.
My partners are themselves retired public schoolteachers,
and they devoted much of their lives to guiding,
growing and loving young people, one of whom was me.
I think you did pretty well, don't you?
To my mother and father-in-law, Tom and Jill,
and thank you for loving me as one of your own all this time.
And most importantly to my amazing husband, Duane,
and my son, Davis, your love and your laughter and your devotion
sustain and complete me.
I could not be here today without your love.
I love you so much.
Thank you.
I stand here today with 53 of America's finest educators,
the 2012 State Teachers of the Year.
A more dedicated, intelligent, compassionate,
hard-working group of professionals you will
never meet.
And I stand here among them as one of them simply
blows me away.
Because I am not 'the' best teacher in America.
There isn't one.
All across this nation, there are millions of teachers who
do the work that I do, and many do it better.
But what I do have are the qualities that some of the
best teachers have.
I have an absolute passion for my work.
I have a bottomless well of belief in my students
and their potential.
I have a thirst for getting better at what I do every
single day.
And I have a warm and welcoming heart for all students and the
unique gifts that they bring to my classroom.
But underneath all of that, I have an unshakeable
understanding that with a strong education,
children can do anything they set their minds to.
Our children are our future, and that I have a hand in guiding
and shaping that future compels me to make every minute,
every lesson, every moment with them count.
All across this nation, millions of teachers just like me are
working wonders in their classroom.
And to be sure, the challenges that we face
are enormous and complex.
There are barriers to student success that we didn't create
and which are far beyond our control,
but despite these burdens, teachers persevere.
Every day here in America, teachers with patience and
creativity are opening doors for students to reach deep within
themselves to learn more, to solve problems,
to grow and to nurture their dreams.
And that we do this work with conviction, that's not unusual,
is isn't even rare.
It happens in America's classrooms every day,
and I need you to know that.
To my fellow educators here today and across this country,
I commend you for the magic you continue to make day in and day
out in your classrooms.
You pull your students in with imaginative lessons,
and then you push your students to perform the best they can
every single day.
The devotion that you show to all of your students will reap a
lifetime of benefits, benefits that will continue to strengthen
this already exceptional nation.
So teachers, I want to say to you,
be passionate about your work and your students, stay curious,
never stop learning, and bring the joy of what you know into
your classrooms and share it with your students,
set the highest expectations for each and every one of your
students, but do me a favor, and set an even higher set of goals
for yourself.
You are a hero to someone and you may not even know it.
And if the future depends on your passion, your dedication,
your professionalism, we are in remarkably capable hands and it
is my honor to represent you.
Thank you very much.
The President: All right everybody, behave yourself, no rabbit ears.
All right, everybody say cheese.