The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 25, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Teach For America in Mississippi
As Delivered
Greenville High School
Greenville, Mississippi

Thank you very much, Natasha (Eddington).

Natasha and I have a couple of things in common: When we were in school, we were so inspired by our teachers that we decided to become teachers. Congratulations on your new job in Houston, Texas. I also taught school in Houston - and it was a very happy experience.

Lt. Governor (Amy) Tuck; Superintendent (Dr. Arthur) Cartlidge; thank you for your hospitality.

Thanks also to my friend Patricia Lott, wife of Senator Trent Lott, for accompanying me today.

Teach for America alumni and supporters, teachers, and students - thank you for the warm welcome to Greenville High School.

The very talented Morgan Freeman is here with his wife Myrna Colley-Lee. You might not know this, but Mr. Freeman loves reading, and he's spent a lot of time promoting the value of reading in our lives.

He once said, "I learned that the sun is 96 million miles away from the earth, because Superman told me that. I read it in a comic book."

One of his first starring roles was as a teacher on TV. And he helped children learn language skills when he played the very cool "Easy Reader" on a classic PBS show called the Electric Company.

Thank you, Mr. Freeman, for promoting the joy of reading and the importance of literacy. And thank you for your support of Teach for America.

I'm glad to be here with TFA's Wendy Kopp.

Wendy, thanks to your leadership and persistence, more than a million children have benefited from Teach for America teachers.

Over the past year, applications to Teach for America have gone up by 180 percent, and here in Greenville, there are already 35 TFA teachers in classrooms.and 20 more started this fall. I think that says a lot about Americans and their dedication to the successful future of our nation's children.

I can't think of a better cause than bringing more excellent teachers into America's schools. Children need our love and support; and they especially need devoted teachers and strong role models.

Teachers have lasting effects on their students' lives. Journalist David Shribman spent a year asking people about the role teachers had played in their lives.

The often humorous and heart-warming answers were compiled into a book titled, "I Remember My Teacher."

A writer in Washington, D.C. said, "I remember Mary Kay Banner. She taught at Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School in Clarion Pennsylvania. I thought she was really old at the time, but of course she wasn't. She played piano, and so we sang between classes. She was the best teacher I ever had because she was the happiest teacher I ever had."

To say that a teacher has a profound impact on a student's life is only half of the story, because students have just as much of an impact on their teachers. A former TFA teacher from the Mississippi Delta now enrolled at Yale Law School wrote down memories about his students and his teaching experience.

His book is soon to be published, and at the end of it, he writes that he allowed his students to read what had written about them and decide whether they wanted their real names to be used.

He wrote that, "Henry, Marvin, David, Kenji, Corelle, Chico, Tiffany, Dianca, Derrick and Melinda want you to know their names are accurate, and I want you to know that this book does not begin to capture their deep goodness, for which I am forever grateful."

He dedicated the book to his parents and to the Students of Greenville High.

I want to encourage the best college students, professionals and military retirees to bring their talents and experience to classrooms across the U.S., especially in inner-city and rural public schools, where the need is greatest.

It is never too early to start planning your teaching career.

In a profile of area high school valedictorians in the Raleigh North Carolina News and Observer, among those students who hope to become judges, doctors, lawyers, and engineers, is a student named Ayan Chatterjee.

A 2002 graduate of Enloe Gifted and Talented Magnet High School, this young girl is beginning her freshman year at Princeton. Her ambitions include not only majoring in molecular biology, but also joining Teach for America upon graduation.

She could be the next Laura English.

Laura grew up in Warsaw, New York -- a small town upstate -- and graduated top of her class at Hollins University with a double major in history and economics. She is embarking on her first job as a teacher in the Mississippi Delta through Teach for America this fall.

A TFA teacher named Michelle Culver who served for two years in Compton, California, said:

"Every morning when I get out of my car, students will run up to me - children I don't even know, in other classes - and they'll ask, "Ms. Culver, can I help you carry anything?"

Michelle said, "The children want to support you. They want you to lead them in this vision, in this belief that every student can and will succeed. As I work to inspire, I am inspired."

Today I have great news about extra support that TFA and its teachers will receive. The Secretary of Education, my friend Rod Paige - who is from Mississippi by the way - has asked me to announce that the Department of Education has just approved a $1 Million-dollar grant for Teach for America.

The grant comes from the Fund for the Improvement of Education, and it will help TFA expand to even more schools around the country. The grant will help TFA train and offer continuing support to its teachers once they're in their classrooms.

Congratulations, Teach for America.

Teach for America succeeds because of the TFA teachers, who are here today. And Teach for America can continue to succeed and expand its good work with your help and support.

Thanks to the TFA supporters for your generosity and for caring about the children of our nation, thanks to the teachers here today, and thanks to the students who continue to inspire the teachers. And congratulations to TFA as you continue to grow, and help children grow in the Mississippi Delta.

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