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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 19, 2003

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at New Teacher Project at the University of New Orleans
University of New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana

Thank you, Nakita for your enthusiasm and for your warm welcome. Thank you, Mrs. Foster and Ambassador Boggs for being here. Thank you, Superintendent Amato, and students of the University of New Orleans for welcoming me to the home of the Privateers. I am delighted to be here with Michelle Rhee who runs The New Teacher Project. Michelle, thanks to your hard work, more than six thousand new teachers are inspiring students in America's classroom.

And thank you, Chancellor O'Brien for your welcome. UNO has a wonderful reputation for preparing America's best and brightest teachers. I had the pleasure of meeting one of these remarkable teachers this morning. Jeannine Boutte is not only a UNO alum, she is a great teacher. Jeannine, thank you, for being here.

We need more like teachers like you in Louisiana's and America's classrooms - more who believe that every child can learn - and that every child deserves an excellent education. We need more teachers who will share their life experiences and their talent with children. Philosopher John Dewey said, "Education is not preparation for life - education is life itself." Each of you here today has an opportunity to improve the life of a child in your community.

Think about this awesome privilege for just a moment. There are few professions where you can see the impact of your work so vividly. There aren't many jobs where hero and best friend are part of the job title. And there are few careers that have such a lasting effect on an entire generation and an entire nation. Teachers shape the minds of our children and the destiny of our country. Teachers fill children's lives with hope, learning and love - not just on school days, but every day of their life.

This is what Jeannine Boutte does. Jeannine knew she wanted to be a teacher from a very young age. Like me, she was inspired by her own teachers. She received her bachelors and Masters in Education from UNO and was well prepared to teach upon graduation. Although, Jeannine admits that UNO didn't prepare her to explain why clouds sometimes look like rabbits or if Webster really knew all of those words in the dictionary. Jeannine has good answers for these questions and a great education; and today she is Sherwood Forest's Teacher of the Year. Congratulations, Jeannine.

Although she loves her job, Jeannine is the first to admit that teaching is difficult. Students' needs are many and varied. In every classroom across the country, there are children from single family homes and those who come to school hungry. The responsibilities of teachers have expanded to meet these needs. To be a great teacher, Jeannine says, "You have to have the wisdom of Ghandi; the courage of a lion; the patience of Job; a heart of gold; and the creativity of Martha Stewart."

Jeannine used all of these talents to help one of her students who lost his Dad, a police officer, in the line of duty. Her student was not reading at grade level and he was having a hard time dealing with the loss. Jeannine read about children and how they grieve. She spent extra time reading with her student and encouraged him to read more at home. At the beginning of the next school year the boy's mom came to visit Jeannine. She said over the summer all her son wanted to do was go to the library and read.

One day as she read a magazine in the library, her son looked up at her and said, "Mom, if you read a chapter book, you might learn something." It was then that the boy mom's realized what an impact Jeannine had made on her son. Jeannine learned that children really do listen to their teachers and that teachers really do make a difference.

There are few professions where you can make such a difference like in teaching. In many jobs you can work nine to five; you can sit at a desk doing the same thing day after day. But with teaching, every day is a new day and every child is unique. For Jeannine, the rewards of teaching are the love and admiration of children and the benefit of knowing that she is making a difference.

Jeannine, thank you for your commitment to children. Your energy and enthusiasm for teaching is reflected in your students' enthusiasm for learning. Although they think you are the hardest teacher they've ever had, they all say you are the best teacher they've ever had. Serena thinks that Ms. Boutte is "the best teacher in the whole world, because she makes learning fun, just like a game." David thinks Ms. Boutte is a great teacher because she taught him multiplication and division.

Because of your example, many of your students want to be teachers when they grow up, especially Amber. She wants to go to the University of New Orleans and become a teacher, "because she wants to be a person just like Ms. Boutte." Amber is well on her way because she knows the importance of a good education. This nine-year old said, "You have to read and study because you can not get through life without good reading and math skills."

We will need Amber, David and Serena in our classrooms of the future. Today in America, we have more students in school than ever before. More children who want the American dream - and who undeniably deserve it. To add to this challenge, more than two million new teachers will be needed in America's classrooms in the next decade.

You can be one of them. Orleans Parish Teaching Fellows wants you to become the teachers of tomorrow. Through this program you will be placed in a school where your training and talent are truly needed. And you will have mentors to guide you along the way - mentors like Jeannine and Kevin Dickerson. A graduate of Orleans Parish Public School and of UNO, Kevin spent twenty years in the computer industry before becoming a teacher. Today, he brings his much-needed technology experience to the classroom.

He helps students earn their certification in computer repair - and he teaches them about the "real-world" applications of the programs they learn. Kevin became a teacher for one of the best reasons - to give something back to his community. And he is doing just that at New Orleans School of Science and Mathematics.

Kevin and Jeannine are doing the greatest community service of all. If you see yourself in one of these remarkable people, then teaching is for you. Teaching is the absolute profession, the one that makes all others possible. Teachers help students develop the skills they need for a lifetime of learning and a lifetime of possibility. Our children's future success depends on their education. America's future depends on our teachers - and New Orleans' children are depending on you. Become a teacher. Thank you.


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