April 26, 2007
10:17 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Congratulations, Andrea. Congratulations to you. Congratulations to all our Teachers of the Year.
Today as we celebrate your accomplishments, we honor excellent teachers across our nation for their dedication and hard work. I know the characteristics of great teachers. You have extraordinary energy and enthusiasm and superb organizational skills. School people are "people people." You have the ability to interact and respect hundreds of different personalities every single day.
I've seen this energy and enthusiasm, not to mention great resolve, in the teachers I've met across the Gulf Coast. Today gives me a chance to thank those teachers who have worked to reopen their schools as quickly as possible. Gulf Coast teachers have comforted students in stable, nurturing classrooms, even as they're living in FEMA trailers themselves. These teachers, and the outstanding teachers who are here today, remind us that teaching is the greatest public service.
Across our country, excellent teachers show children that there's an adult who cares about them, respects them, and believes in them. It's a lesson that stays with students for a lifetime.
Now I'd like to introduce someone I know who cares for, respects, and believes in our teachers: Ladies and gentlemen, my husband, George W. Bush.
THE PRESIDENT: She forgot to add "and loves a teacher." I made a good move when I married a teacher, and Laura and I are honored to welcome you here to the Rose Garden. Thanks for coming and thanks for teaching.
This is a special day for all who care deeply about education, because we fully understand that without a good teacher it's hard to achieve national goals and objectives. And so the Teacher of the Year ceremony is a chance to pay homage to some really fine public servants and great Americans, so we welcome you.
I appreciate the Secretary of Education joining us. I want to thank Congressman John Boozman and his wife, Cathy, from Arkansas. We thank Jay Inslee, from Washington, for joining us; thank you, Congressman. Dennis Moore and Stephanie, from Kansas, have joined us, as has Rick Larsen from Washington. I wonder why all these Washington congressmen have joined us.
Laura and I just had a chance to thank every State Teacher of the Year. It's an honor to welcome you to the Oval Office, it is a shrine to democracy and a wonderful place to give our personal thanks to a job well done.
I do want to recognize the finalists this year: Justin Minkel, from Arkansas. Josh Anderson, from Kansas. Tamara Tiong, from New Mexico. Andrea Peterson, the Teacher of the Year. And we've got to recognize Joel, the husband of the Teacher of the Year. Thank you, Joel. And mom and dad -- I'm going to say something about mom and dad in a minute.
I want to thank Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers for sponsoring this event. Rhonda Mims, the President of ING Foundation, Tom Waldron, the Executive Vice President of ING, and all the Chief State School Officers here today, thanks for coming. Thanks for honoring the teachers.
When you really think about it, few professionals have as direct an impact on our future as our teachers. Teachers are among our children's first role models, counselors, and friends. Teachers awaken young minds, and teachers encourage ingenuity and unleash fertile imaginations.
It's demanding work to be a teacher, even during its best moments. Sometimes, teachers come across students who require them to summon every last ounce of patience and understanding. When those times come, I just ask you remember, one day that student may become the President.
We ask a lot of our teachers, and we owe them a lot in return. One of the first priorities as President was to work with members of both parties to pass what's called the No Child Left Behind Act. I am -- I can't tell you how important this Act is to make sure every child learns to read, write, and add and subtract. The Act insists upon high standards, standards that you all set in your classrooms. Otherwise, you wouldn't be a Teacher of the Year. It says that it's important to measure to determine whether or not our children are learning and meeting standards. Measurement is not a tool to punish. Measurement is a tool to correct and reward.
The No Child Left Behind Act is working. In reading, nine-year-olds have made more progress in five years than the previous 28 years combined. A President couldn't report that to the nation unless we actually measured to determine whether that was true. In math, nine-year-olds and 13-year-olds have earned their highest test scores ever. In both reading and math, African American and Hispanic students are scoring higher and beginning to close the achievement gap with their peers.
The structure of the No Child Left Behind Act, the strategy of the Act makes a lot of sense. And that's why the Congress needs to reauthorize this good law. But the Act wouldn't be working without really dedicated teachers making sure -- making sure our children learn.
Teaching is more than a profession; it's a calling. And that calling came early to our Teacher of the Year. Andrea Peterson knows the importance of education in her life. After all, as she explained to me in the Oval Office, her first role model was her dad, who has taught for more than 30 years. And we welcome you. And we congratulate you on being such a fine dad that your daughter stands here in the Rose Garden as the National Teacher of the Year.
Andrea has got two sisters-in-law who are teachers, and a mother-in-law who is a teacher. This is a family that really cares about good grammar. I probably wouldn't do all that well at the dinner table. When you come from a family of teachers, you tend to develop a life-long appreciation of learning. And more importantly, it enables you to find creative ways to instill that appreciation in others.
Andrea has done some -- a lot of amazing work as a music teacher at Monte Cristo Elementary School in Granite Falls, Washington. In her 10 years at Monte Cristo, she has built an impressive music program, almost from scratch. She helped the school purchase instruments, organized an after-school choir, and helped obtain computer programs that allow students to compose their own music. She has integrated music education into other subjects. She's taken novels that children were reading in other classes and turned them into musical productions. She's used musical notes to explain fractions. She's helped students reach out to the community by developing a music program that honored local veterans. She's used music to reach students who are not doing well in the traditional classroom setting.
She's more than a music teacher. One parent said of Andrea this: "Mrs. Peterson is passionate about her job, and it shows." In fact, like any good teacher, Andrea juggles responsibilities that would exhaust all of us. For example, in the past few months, she's taught classes full-time, she carried out her obligations as Washington State Teacher of the Year, and took part in the National Teacher of the Year activities. And to top it all off, four weeks ago she gave birth to a daughter named Faith. That's what we call multitasking. Faith probably doesn't know it yet, but she's lucky to have a mom and a dad like the Petersons.
There are a few other teachers who I think deserve mention today, and those are the teachers at Virginia Tech. They did all they could to protect their students from a day of horror, and they're doing all they can to help them heal in the aftermath. One teacher gave his life by using his body to barricade a classroom door while his students jumped to safety from windows. Americans everywhere hold the teachers and students and parents of the Virginia Tech community in our thoughts and in our prayers.
This tragedy has affected at least one of the teachers here in a very personal way, and that would be Susan Evans, who earned her master's degree at Virginia Tech, and we thank you for wearing the Virginia Tech scarf today.
Our nation is still seeking to make sense of this tragedy, and so are America's children. In fact, one of your hardest jobs is to explain horrific acts to the students. It's a hard job, but I want to thank America's teachers for comforting and encouraging our nation's youth during difficult moments such as the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
We're fortunate to have teachers like we do in America -- men and women who are drawn to the classroom with a desire to serve something larger than themselves. So on behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for your hard work and your dedication. I thank you for preparing our young children for the challenges of the 21st century. And I thank you for all you do every day to help build a better America.
Congratulations, and welcome to the White House.
END 10:30 A.M. EDT