Behind the Scenes at the State Dinner for Teachers

Xander and fellow Kid Reporter Leyla Saldanha with members of the national press at the White House State Dinner for “Teachers of the Year”

“You look at your students and don’t just see who they are today,” said First Lady Jill Biden. “You see all the possibility of tomorrow.”

Dr. Biden was addressed outstanding teachers from across the United States and its territories at a ceremonial dinner at the White House. The May 2 event was the first-ever “Teachers of the Year” State Dinner. Such an honor is typically reserved for reigning monarchs and world leaders.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) oversees the National Teacher of the Year Program. Each year, the CCSSO identifies and honors “exceptional” teachers in states across the country. 


The United States Army Chorus and the Army and Air Force Strings performed during the dinner.

I covered the event with fellow Kid Reporter Leyla Saldanha. We were able to talk with teachers before the dinner began. They spoke about the joys and challenges of teaching. Kimberly Jones, 2024 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, observed how technology is transforming schools. “Technology has made teaching much easier,” she said, noting its ability to enhance student engagement. 

Kevin Dailey, 2024 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, was asked about the challenges posed by the recent pandemic, which forced the temporary closure of many schools. “Teachers are resilient,” he said. “We will continue to support our students.”


Mark Lowrie, 2024 Ohio Teacher of the Year, and Tennessee′s Missy Testerman, 2024 National Teacher of the Year, speak with members of the press at the White House. In the entrance hall, bouquets of irises, the Tennessee State Flower, paid tribute to Testerman. 


Guests later gathered in the East Room of the White House for a festive meal, which included lobster ravioli and strawberries and cream. The tables were decorated with flowers and candelabras. Each teacher received a letter of appreciation that had been written by their students. 

Music by the United States Army Chorus and the Army and Air Force Strings contributed to a celebratory atmosphere. So did a surprise appearance by President Joseph R. Biden. “You are the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft,” Biden told the teachers. “You are the future. You provide it for us.”

The dinner took place a few days before the start of Teacher Appreciation Week. It underscored the crucial role that teachers play in our lives and society. As Missy Testerman from Tennessee, the 2024 National Teacher of the Year, said, “Teachers are the ultimate facilitators of justice, fairness, equity and democracy.”

Click here to read Kid Reporter Leyla Saldanha’s article about the State Dinner for Teachers of the Year



Top photo: Ron Sachs / CNP; other photos: Suzanne McCabe