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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 22, 2001

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at DC Teaching Fellow Launch
Patricia Roberts Harris Educational Center
Washington, D.C.

Thank you very much. Mayor Williams, Dr. Vance, distinguished guests.

President Bush says hello and thank you to the teachers here. My husband is partial to teachers. In fact, he married one 23 years ago.

George and I both appreciate Dr. Vance and his commitment to the children of the DC public schools and of course Mayor Williams and his commitment to our new hometown.

Thank you both for your support and help.

I would also like to recognize Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson of The New Teacher Project and Wendy Kopp, President of Teach for America. Thank you for being here today.

I am proud to add my name to the list of supporters for the new DC Teaching Fellows program.

The District should be proud of the men and women who work in our classrooms everyday. But our schools need more teachers. That is why we are here today.

What a wonderful idea -- to encourage the best and the brightest among us to join the ranks of America's finest teachers. So many career professionals can bring invaluable experience to the classroom.

Teaching is one of the best career choices there is and I salute everyone who is willing to take a bold step in that direction.

Each of the educators who are here with us today has a special reason for becoming a teacher. But what they have in common is a love of children and a passion for knowledge.

How profound the profession of teaching is - teachers have a tremendous impact on the lives of children, therefore, on the future of this country.

Many of us can look back and remember being influenced by a teacher in a life changing way.

I'll never forget a story I heard from John Erickson, an award-winning author who writes the "Hank the Cowdog" children's books. He credits his twelfth grade English teacher, Annie Love, for inspiring his writing abilities.

One of her assignments changed his life. It was to write a poem.

John said, "I'd never written one before, but I found it was easy for me. So instead of writing one poem, I wrote five. She told me that they were beautiful and to write some more.u

"By the end of the semester he said he'd made a book out of them. He made a wooden book binding in my wood shop, and he gave it to her at the end of the year.

"I guess you could say it was my first book." John kept in touch with his teacher through college, and he often asked her to read his books before they were published. In fact, you will find her name in one of his books, which he dedicated to her.

Teaching is always challenging and it is often thankless...but even the smallest rewards are greater than in any other profession.

To me, there is something almost sacred about teaching. As the historian Henry Brooks Adams said, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Watching a child's eyes brighten with understanding is an experience that defies description. But it's something that every teacher can understand.

For some of you the experience of teaching may be a new one, but for others it is part of a lifelong dream. It certainly was for me.

I can trace my own love of teaching back to childhood. I admired one of my teachers so much that I decided I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. Her name was Miss Gnagy, and she was my second-grade teacher. I did become a teacher, and those experiences are some of the most important of my life.

You can imagine, then, how easy it was to make the decision to continue my commitment to helping children learn long after I stopped teaching. I am proud to be able to continue that same mission today.

One of my goals over the next four years is to encourage more people to become teachers. Events like this one are at the heart of that effort.

I will do everything I can to highlight initiatives like the DC Teaching Fellows program. We need the best and the brightest in our public schools.

I urge all Americans to work together to re-ignite our passion for teaching and learning, to improve every single school with every child in hand and every success at heart.

President Bush joins me in sending our best wishes on this special occasion. We believe in America's teachers. Thank you all very very much, and thank you for your dedication to educating our children.

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