Jill Biden

Teachers of the Year - Oct. 18, 2021

Jill Biden
October 18, 2021
Teacher of the Year
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Thank you, and welcome to the White House.

Secretary Cardona, as you know, my husband made a promise to educators across America, that his secretary of education would be a leader who taught in a public school classroom – and he found that in you. Right Randi? Right Becky? It was our promise. Thank you for all that you are doing to support teachers like those that are with us today.

And thank you to our national teachers of the year for 2020 and 2021.

Juliana, I was so happy to surprise you last spring when you were announced. It was so much fun – even though it was 4:30 in the morning. And Tabitha, congratulations on being our first ever early childhood education awardee.

So why are you here? I don’t mean here on the south lawn. I mean why are you here? You’re here because you are among the finest group of educators in our country. What I mean is, what started you on the path that led you here? Why did you choose to be a teacher? Why have you dedicated your life to teaching? Everyone here today is here for a reason. Maybe it was a teacher who pushed you to dream that you could make a difference. A child who inspired you to make the world work a little better for her. A time that when you realize that no one was going to do the hard work of changing things, if you didn’t answer the call. We all have our moment when our story began; or a person who set us on this path.

For me, it was my grandmother. She taught in an old fashioned, one room school house, crammed with three grades of students. And some days when I was a little girl, she would take me with her. And if I was lucky I got to ring the brass bell – literally – that called her students to class. And she was a great teacher, she loved it; and her students could tell. She didn’t just teach letters and arithmetic she – like you – opened up new worlds. When she read to us from Charlotte’s Web or – my favorite, Mary Poppins, she was spell binding. And every child who walked through the walls of her classroom became enchanted, including me. I wanted to do that. I wanted to help kids see their world in a different way. I wanted to help them find their own voice through writing. I thought if I could do what she did, if I could set just one student on a better path, that, would be really special. Someone inspired you too. Someone helped you find your path. And I know that they would be proud to know just how far you’ve come.

The national and state teachers of the year program is the most prestigious teacher recognition program in our country. So many teachers were submitted for consideration. And in a crowd of some of the most innovative, talented, compassionate, and effective educators in our country, you – you all stood out.

Just – Yes.

Just look at who is here today. Juliana and Tabitha, you are the inspirations and the innovators. In fact, all of you, all of you, represent the best of our profession. And yet, you also represent the small miracles that teachers across this country perform in their classrooms every single day. Seeing the boy who feels like he’s fading away, and helping him express himself through music or art. Helping the girl, who, thinks she’s not smart enough, to find that intelligence that’s always been there. Holding that mom’s hand when you tell her, despite her fears and stress, that she’s doing a great job. Understanding that the words “I’m fine” often means everything is wrong.

Through uncertainty and unknowns, through a computer screen or at a distance in the classroom, teachers found new and innovative ways to connect. You met students where they were. You worked long hours – I see the heads, yes, you work long hours. You reworked those lesson plans – I swear overnight – and you reimagined what a classroom could be. It was difficult, wasn’t it? And we’re still wrestling with the challenges of this pandemic. But you and teachers like you across this country have found the courage and the strength to keep going. With all of my heart, and on behalf of millions of American families, thank you for being the heroes we needed. I’m gonna clap for you.

We don’t do this job because it’s easy – we don’t do it because it brings us fame and fortune, that’s for sure. We do it because it’s more than a job; it’s a calling isn’t it? It’s part of who we are. And, what I want to say to you is this: never, ever, underestimate the power of what you do every day.

You know when my grandmother died, she didn’t leave behind a giant estate – but what I inherited from her, and what I still have to this day, is that simple brass school bell that she used to let me ring. And when I think about that bell, I think about the way her legacy; her love of learning; her patience and compassion, resonated into the world like waves of sound, changing those who heard its ring. I think of every student that she taught, and wonder what amazing things they grew up to do. Perhaps they are public servants, working to make our communities a little stronger, or a little fairer. Perhaps they are doctors, saving lives, or architects building our cities, or scientists working to solve global challenges. And of course, there’s at least one teacher. We’re all here today because someone, someone took the time, who taught us, inspired us, and showed us what we could be. And today, you all ring your own bell, pulling each person you teach into a harmony that never ends. Right now, someone out there is a better thinker because of you.

Someone is standing a little taller, because you helped her find the confidence she needed. Someone is working a little harder because you pushed him to try. And someone is kinder, because you showed her, what that meant. Someone is braver, because you helped him find his courage. Never stop ringing that bell. Never forget that the lives you change, go on to change the world. Student by student; teachers everywhere are performing miracles every day. So thank you, for being here, and thank you for coming to the white house. You don’t know how much I have looked forward to this day.

Thank you. Now, there’s someone, there’s one more person that I want you to speak to today, and that person should be coming out momentarily.

Biden, J. [PBS NewsHour]. (2021, October 18). WATCH LIVE: First Lady Jill Biden hosts 'Teachers of the Year' at White House [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooB59rTESGg]. Retrieved on April 13, 2022 from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6ZFN9Tx6xh-skXCuRHCDpQ.