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Teachers Matter

This week President Obama honored a group of outstanding educators, just a few of the many across America who change lives forever through their work every day
2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki watches President Obama (April 24, 2012)

2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki, a 7th-grade English teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Burbank, Calif., watches as President Barack Obama honors the 2012 National and State Teachers of the Year in the East Room of the White House, April 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On Tuesday, a special group of educators visited the White House: the 2012 State and National Teachers of the Year. The teachers honored that day are just a few of the many across America who, through their work every day, change lives forever. As President Obama said in his comments to these Teachers of the Year, he wouldn’t be in the White House today if it were not for the teachers who challenged him, pushed him, and inspired him – who taught him that no matter who you are, where you come from, or what your last name is, you can succeed.  

As the President has repeatedly stated, teachers matter. That’s why he often tells young people that if they want to join a profession where they can make a difference every single day, become a teacher. Our Administration is proud to have supported states in undertaking comprehensive reforms to promote teacher effectiveness and advancement, because we know that an essential component of improving America’s education system is to ensure a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every school. And that’s why President Obama and Secretary Duncan continue to propose the changes needed to strengthen the teaching profession at every stage, to better prepare, develop, support, and reward great teachers that will help America’s children excel. That includes listening and working in partnership with teachers across America to forge a vision for transforming the profession, built on shared responsibility and accountability for results, on-going collaboration and development, and greater individual and collective autonomy for teachers that will free them from teaching to the test and unleash learning in their classrooms. 

President Obama welcomed Rebecca Mieliwocki to the White House from Burbank, California as the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. In their comments, both the President and Rebecca recognized that many teachers around the country are just like her - teachers that go the extra mile to make sure their students are challenged, nurtured, and successful. Providing all students an education that prepares them for college and a career is the surest path to a strong middle class and an American economy built to last. 

President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and the entire Administration are deeply grateful for the dedication and contributions of teachers across the nation. Below, we share a portion of Rebecca’s remarks from the Tuesday’s ceremony with the President, in recognition of the enormous impact of our nation’s educators: 

“I stand here today with 53 of America’s finest educators, the 2012 state teachers of the year.  A more dedicated, compassionate, intelligent, creative, and hard-working group of professionals you’ll never meet.  That I am one of them really just blows me away.  I’m not standing here today because I’m the best teacher in America.  There are millions of us across this country who do the work I do, and many do it better.  

What I do have are some of the qualities that the best teachers have: an absolute passion for my work, a bottomless well of belief in my students and their potential, a thirst for getting better at what I do every single day, and a warm and welcoming heart for all students and the unique gifts they bring to our classrooms. But underneath all of that, I have an unshakable understanding that with a strong education, any child can do anything he or she puts her mind to. Our children are our future. That I have a hand in helping build 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 classrooms. To be sure, the challenges we face are enormous and complex. There are barriers to student success we did not create and which are often beyond our control, but despite these burdens, teachers persevere.  

Every day, here in America, teachers with patience and creativity are opening doors for children to reach deep within themselves to learn more, solve problems, grow, and nurture their dreams. That we do this work with conviction is not unusual. It 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 push your students to perform the best they can every day. The devotion you show to all your students will reap a lifetime of benefits–benefits which continue to strengthen this already exceptional nation. 

So teachers I want to say to you: Be passionate about your students and your work. Stay curious. Never stop learning and bring the joy of what you’ve learned into your classrooms. Set the highest expectations for all of your students, but do me a favor, and set even higher 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, then we are all in remarkably capable hands and I am honored to represent you.”