President, first lady honor teachers at White House awards ceremony

President, first lady honor teachers at White House awards ceremony
© White House video

First lady Jill BidenJill BidenWhite House holiday decorations available for 360 tour via Google Street View The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud MORE, with a surprise appearance from President BidenJoe BidenPfizer CEO says vaccine data for those under 5 could be available by end of year Omicron coronavirus variant found in at least 10 states Photos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles MORE, hosted teachers at the White House on Monday for the teachers of the year awards.

“You worked long hours,” the first lady said to the crowd of around 100 teachers. “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.” 

Biden, an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College, held the Council of Chief State School Officers’ 2020 and 2021 State and National Teachers of the Year awards on the South Lawn.

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“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 that we needed,” she said.

She introduced a surprise visitor, the president, at the event. Biden called himself “Jill’s husband” and noted that when he was first elected to the White House, he knew immediately his wife would want to still teach full time.

“She’s the only first lady who’s ever had a full-time job. Now, the fact that I don’t ever get to see her, the fact that she’s either traveling on behalf of the people of this country or going to this classroom teaching 15 credits at the community college, is a different story. But it is who she is,” he said. 

He called teachers the “kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft.”

“Most of all, what you do is you give us confidence, you instill confidence,” he said, adding that when he was a child with a stutter, the nuns at his school would sit him down to practice speaking and give him confidence. 

The president and first lady presented the awards, which were crystal apples, to the 2020 and 2021 national teachers of the year. 

The National Teacher of the Year 2021 award was given to Juliana Urtubey, who teaches at Kermit R. Booker, Sr. Innovative Elementary School in Nevada and specializes in elementary education and special education. 

The National Teacher of the Year 2020 award was given to Tabatha Rosproy, who teaches at Winfield Early Learning Center in Kansas and specializes in elementary education. 

The national teacher of the year and the other state teachers of the year winners usually convene in-person in Washington, D.C., in the spring for several days that includes a National Teacher of the Year ceremony that is traditionally hosted at the White House. 

“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 a little better for her, a time that when you realized that no one was going to do the hard work of changing things if you didn’t answer the call,” the first lady said to the crowd. 

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She said her grandmother, who taught in a one-room schoolhouse with three grades of students, inspired her. 

“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,” she said.

“We do it because it’s more than a job, it’s a calling, it’s it? It’s part of who we are,” she said. “Never, ever underestimate the power of what you do every day."

Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaHillicon Valley — Immigrants being put in surveillance programs Senate Democrats urge government to do more to protect K-12 schools against hackers Democrats call on Education secretary to address 'stealthing' at federal level MORE also spoke at the ceremony, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was in the audience.