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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 16, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Troops to Teachers Event at Wright Patterson Air Force Base
Wright Patterson Air Force Base
Dayton, Ohio

Thank you, Lillie for that lovely introduction. Thank you, General Reynolds, Mr. Mills, Dr. Gantz, First Lady Taft, Senator DeWine, and the heroic men and women of the United States Air Force and their families. Thank you for your warm welcome.

Along with Senator DeWine, I also want to thank Congressmen Hobson, Tiberi and Regula for your continued support of education in Ohio and the No Child Left Behind Act, which expanded funding for the Troops to Teachers program. Even though he couldn't be with us today, I also want to thank Congressman John Boehner for his leadership in passage of this landmark legislation.

Lillie, you are a great reader and a gifted speaker. I imagine your teacher, Mr. Mills, has something to do with that. But I can not imagine what you thought when he first walked into your kindergarten classroom six years ago. He must have seemed like a giant, especially since the chairs and the students only came to his knees. I can not quite imagine what Randy Mills was thinking either. As a retired Major who served 18 years in the Air Force, he was used to surviving in tough environments - a kindergarten classroom was a whole different world. Blues Clues, naptime and curious miniature cadets redefined the term, mission impossible.

For Lillie and her classmates, Mr. Mills made learning possible. In kindergarten, Lillie needed extra help in reading and writing. Mr. Mills made sure she got it. They practiced together every afternoon. Mr. Mills went from pinning cadets with gold stars to passing out star stickers for good work. With his help and guidance, Lillie excelled. She is currently in Mr. Mills's sixth grade class and one of Kemp Elementary's brightest students.

I want to commend and thank Mr. Mills and the Troops to Teachers men and women who are here with us today, including Eusebio Bretado Jr., Bill Byrd, Jason Barkeloo, Melvin Early, Mike Glaze, Steve Heida, Laura Miller and Greg Powell. As America's teachers, you're doing a remarkable job. Your dedication, commitment and leadership are exemplary of what our troops bring to classrooms all across America. Helping students prosper and grow is what teaching is all about. Protecting our country so that it can prosper and grow is what the United States Air Force is all about.

President Bush joins me in thanking you for your commitment to your country and to the cause of freedom. Over the last year, we have witnessed extraordinary acts of sacrifice and courage, compassion and unity. We are reminded that as citizens and neighbors we have an obligation to each other, to this nation, and to our future.

Our children are the future. Ensuring that they receive the best education possible and the chance to realize their dreams is our greatest obligation. As soldiers, you pledged yourselves to duty, honor and country - and your service will never be forgotten. Today, I ask you to pledge yourselves to our children, the future of this country. I ask our retiring military men and women to answer a new call - the call to teach.

We have more students in school than ever before. More children who want the American dream and who undeniably deserve it. In the next decade, more than two million new teachers will be needed in our classrooms. Here in Ohio, Congressman Regula is working to meet this need. Through his Ohio Troops to Teachers Demonstration Program, retiring military men and women are getting training, certification and support to become the teachers of tomorrow. Thank you, Congressman Regula.

I also want to thank Dr. Susan Zelman for your efforts to help implement this program and to help teachers get the skills they need. Teachers with bilingual and special education training are especially needed - and those with math, science and technology backgrounds - exactly the kind of experience many of you here have.

The skills you learn here at Wright Patterson and hone throughout your career translate well into teaching. High school senior Alex Herrmann who is with us today can vouch for that. He thinks his teacher Mr. Barkeloo, a twelve-year Army lieutenant, has a strong understanding of the world and is particularly knowledgeable about technology and current affairs. Students like Alex need real world perspective, they need leadership and above all, they need someone to look up to. They need the talented men and women of the United States Air Force.

The Troops to Teachers program is designed to help you move from the frontlines to the front of the class as America's newest teachers. Through this program, you'll earn your teaching credentials. And you will be placed in a school in your hometown or wherever you plan to live upon retirement.

Since 1994, four thousand former military personnel have joined the ranks as teachers. And they're making a remarkable difference. Today, I'm proud to honor three of Troops to Teachers' very best with the Excellence in Teaching Award. They are helping their students reach new levels of success and new hopes for their future.

For 16 years, Eusebio Bretado was an exceptional leader as a Staff Sergeant in the Army. Today, he brings his leadership skills to the classroom as an exceptional teacher. His fourth and fifth grade second-language students have scored perfect or near-perfect on the state assessment test for the past two years. With Mr. Bretado's help, fifth grade math scores increased from just 27 percent passing to 100 percent passing. The scores in reading were no exception - 100 percent passing up from 30 percent.

Because of his hard work, Desert Hills Elementary was recognized as an exemplary campus last year, the highest level of academic excellence in Texas. Mr. Bretado's students not only want to learn, they want to learn from him. He has shown them how important education is in their lives. Once a high school drop out, he credits the Army for helping him realize that the key to achieving all of his dreams was an education. He earned his diploma and was the first in his family to graduate from both high school and college. He then received his masters degree and plans to receive his doctorate in history. Congratulations Eusebio.

Besides being known as Riverton Middle School's Teacher of the Year, Bill Byrd is renowned for his innovative approach to teaching math. As a 15-year Navy lieutenant, he knows first hand how vitally important team work is.

He uses a learning game called Math Ball to help students better work as a team and better understand this challenging subject.

Mr. Byrd pitches the team real-life math problems from computing interest rates to percentages. The team takes a swing at the problem and then one student is selected to complete the answer on the blackboard. A correct answer is a hit, and difficult problems are doubles, triples and even homeruns. Students win bragging rights as the team to beat, as well as sodas and tickets to ball games. Mr. Byrd's students respond so well to him and his fun approach to learning, that the number of students in advanced algebra has doubled. And student SAT scores have increased by ten points. Thank you, Bill for your hard work. [Applause]

After 21 years in the Air Force, retired Master Sergeant Michael Glaze was accustomed to getting things done - and getting results. He expected nothing less of his students. And they didn't let him down. As Beaufort Elementary teacher of the year, Mr. Glaze's fourth graders showed the most improvement of any class on the Palmetto Achievement Tests.

And his third grade class showed a renewed interest in science after Mr. Glaze led them in Operation Space Station. In a hands-on approach to learning, Mr. Glaze and his students transformed their classroom into a space station. Just like real astronauts, they stayed in the station all night, with only a two-hour break. They communicated by instant messenger on lap top computers and they created plans of action in case a fellow crew member became sick. By the next day, the students had two new heroes - Neil Armstrong and Mr. Glaze. Congratulations, Michael.

I want to commend these extraordinary teachers for their commitment to our students and to their success - and for bringing a new level of experience, innovation and leadership to our classrooms. You are decorated members of the military and truly dedicated teachers. But you are something else entirely - you are role models.

And Wright Patterson Air Force Base has no shortage of them. Members of the military have always been tremendous role models - you possess the greatest in character, commitment and resolve. And today, our children need those qualities more than ever. Children reflect the values they see in their parents and in their role models. We all do. Think back to your favorite teacher - the one who inspired or challenged you. The one who made reading fun and Ben Franklin seem like he was right there in the classroom. Every child deserves that. You can bring that same inspiration to a child today.

The very spirit of America lies in the aspirations of our children. It is in this spirit that I ask you to rise to a new challenge and join Troops to Teachers. Let history show that America worked together for her children - and that every child had the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Thank You.

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