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Teachers Are Honored at the White House

Leyla talks with an educator about the role that teachers play in American society. 

On May 2, outstanding teachers got the royal treatment at the White House in Washington, D.C. First Lady Jill Biden hosted the first-ever “Teachers of the Year” State Dinner. Fellow Kid Reporter Xander Dorsey and I were invited to cover the event with other members of the press.

A State Dinner typically “honors a visiting head of government or reigning monarch in one of the grandest and most glamorous affairs,” according to the White House. In this instance, top teachers gathered to recognize the contributions of Missy Testerman, who teaches ELL students (English Language Learners) at Rogersville City School in Tennessee. Testerman was recently named the 2024 National Teacher of the Year.

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. 

 

“Teaching isn’t just a job,” Dr. Biden said. “It’s a calling.” 

“A CALLING”

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona observed that holding a State Dinner for teachers was “a sign of respect for the most important leaders and the immense impact that they have on the [students] they represent.” 

The First Lady, who is a teacher, commended the dedication of educators. “Teaching isn’t just a job,” Dr. Biden said. “It’s a calling.” 

President Joseph R. Biden, who made a surprise appearance at the dinner, echoed his wife's views. “Teaching is not what you do, but who you are,” he said. “I realize how hard you all work every day. I just want to say how much I appreciate all you do.”  

Testerman also addressed the educators. “We make democracy possible,” she said. “We also make all professions, every single one of them, possible.”

 

Leyla at the White House with fellow Kid Reporter Xander Dorsey

“VERY PROUD”

Before the dinner, the teachers, who were dressed in formal attire, made a ceremonial entrance. They spoke with members of the press about their roles in society and how it felt to be honored on the national stage.

Taniece M. Thompson-Smith, Texas Teacher of the Year, said that her students were "very proud to have Texas represented here. We have worked hard, and I’m so happy to walk through these doors with all the students in my mind.”

When asked what teaching meant to him, John Corbin, Wyoming Teacher of the Year, said “I just think it’s the most fun thing in the world to see you guys grow and fulfill your unlimited potential.” 

For young people considering a career in teaching, Briana Morales, Illinois Teacher of the Year, offered advice. “If you want to go into teaching,” she said, “do it because you want to impact the lives of future generations the way teachers have done for you.”

Click here to read Kid Reporter Xander Dorsey’s article about the White House State Dinner. 

Top and bottom photos: Ron Sachs / CNP; middle photo: Suzanne McCabe