For Immediate Release
Office of Mrs. Bush
May 14, 2003
Teach for America - Arizona State University
Friday, May 9, 2003
Thank you, Cristina for the wonderful welcome. Ms. Berselli said you
were a great reader and I can see that she is right. Thank you,
President Crow and students of Arizona State for welcoming me to the
home of the Sun Devils. I am delighted to be here with Beth Berselli, a
Teach For America teacher. Beth is one of nine thousand TFA teachers
in America's classrooms - and one of nearly 120 top college graduates
teaching in Phoenix.
Beth has inspired her sister to teach, and she is inspiring some of
her students as well - especially Cristina. Cristina's favorite subject
is Math and someday she hopes to teach math to second and third
graders. She is eleven years old now, but we will need Cristina in our
classrooms of the future. And we need each one of you.
Today in America, we have more students in school than ever before.
More children who want the American dream - and who undeniably deserve
it. More than two million new teachers will be needed in America's
classrooms in the next decade - and you can be one of them. Teach For
America wants you to become the teachers of tomorrow. Through this
program you will be placed in a school where your leadership skills and
talent are truly needed. And you will have mentors to guide you along
the way - mentors like Beth.
We need more like teachers like Beth in Arizona's and America's
classrooms - more who believe that every child can learn - and that
every child deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We need
teachers with diverse academic backgrounds who will commit to teaching
for two years in an urban or rural public school, where teachers are
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 description. And there
are few careers that have such a lasting effect on an entire generation
and an entire nation. Teachers fill children's lives with hope,
learning and love - not just on school days, but every day of their
This is what Beth does. I first met Beth two years ago while she
was working as a reporter at the Washington Post. But it was not the
last time I would meet her. Although Beth enjoyed her job, she didn't
feel fulfilled. She heard about Teach For America while covering a
school board meeting and decided it was time to give something back to
her community. Beth left her job and joined Teach For America. Before
she traveled to Arizona, she visited me - and since I was a public
school teacher in Texas - she asked for some advice.
Even the little advice I offered could not have prepared Beth for
this experience. As Beth said, "working in an inner-city school has
been a real eye opener." Many TFA teachers agree. Many are surprised to
find their students can not read at grade level and some struggle with
the alphabet. This is not uncommon. Nationwide, two-thirds of fourth
graders in our poorest schools can not read a simple children's book.
Beth did not want her students to face similar odds. Today her
students are not only learning, but excelling at reading, fractions,
and science. One of her students has improved from a fourth to a sixth
grade reading level. Although she loves her job, Beth 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.
Beth said, "In my last job, I wasn't really making any
contribution. If I hadn't done this, I'd still be a successful
reporter, but I wouldn't have any life experience. I have met so many
amazing kids in the last year. Students.who are eager to learn and are
succeeding at it despite everything. For kids like them, I show up
everyday and try my best to teach."
Beth, 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. Chelzeha
thinks that Ms. Berselli is a great teacher because she makes learning
fun. Her favorite subject is science and right now in class, she is
learning about the human body.
Chelzeha especially enjoyed a project where she traced the outline
of her body on a big piece of paper and then colored and pasted organs
in their appropriate places. She learned about her heart, liver and
kidneys. And she learned that she likes science so much, she wants to
build computers someday. Ms. Berselli taught Katherine how to add and
subtract fractions - and she'll need to know her math if she wants to
become a doctor some day.
There are few professions where you can make such a difference. 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 Beth, the rewards of teaching are the love
and admiration of children and the benefit of knowing that she is
making a difference. If you want to make a difference and help change a
child's life, 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. And America's future depends
on our teachers. Arizona's children are depending on you. Best wishes
to each of you as you finish ASU and go out into the world. When you
leave here, I hope you'll think about becoming a teacher. Thank you.