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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 24, 2003

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Presidential Scholars Teacher Recognition Dinner

Thank you, Betsy for your warm welcome and for sharing your love of teaching as America's Teacher of the Year. I met Betsy when she came to the White House in April to receive the Teacher of the Year award. In her remarks that day Betsy said, "It's quite overwhelming to be recognized for something that you love to do every day."

All teachers deserve to be recognized for the contributions they make in our classrooms and in our country. Teaching is the greatest public service and we owe teachers our admiration and respect. Each of the teachers here tonight exemplifies the very best in teaching - and the students who honor you are evidence of your immense talent and dedication. I'm happy to say that President Bush loves teachers so much that he married one, and he sends his congratulations and thanks to all of you.

Thanks to Secretary Paige, Senator Kramer, and members of the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. Thank you, Austin and Rena for telling us about the teachers who have inspired you - and congratulations to our Presidential Scholars. I've read your biographies and while your talents range from science to the arts, all of you believe in hard work and strong character. You represent the best of your generation, and I'm confident you'll do great things for our country.

You're headed to some of the most prestigious universities and you've earned the honor of becoming a Presidential Scholar, but you didn't do it alone - the teachers you honor tonight have taught you history, calculus and biology. And I dare say, they've taught you something about yourself.

Dr. Marlin Kemmer has helped Mina Kimes realize she wants to be a writer. Mina said of her most influential teacher, "I firmly believe that Dr. Kemmer's guidance has enabled me to mature as a writer. Entering my freshman year, I never even considered writing outside of school. I am extremely thankful to have Dr. Kemmer as a teacher. It is unlikely that I would have found what I truly believe to be my calling in life." And for Matthew Spencer, his teacher Mr. Jeffrey Dilks has inspired him to study physics and to apply his passion for learning in life. Matthew said, "Mr. Dilks tries to convince us to think like scientists and as a result I have begun to think more critically about everything from scientific theories to the way I live my life."

Teachers like Dr. Kemmer and Mr. Dilks help students develop the skills they need for a lifetime of learning and a lifetime of possibility. Teaching is the absolute profession, the one that makes all others possible. As teacher Greg Korshavn, Chalmers Wang's favorite teacher said, "Teaching is about touching lives."

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, and sometimes even surrogate mom or dad is part of the job description. For Betsy Scherzer her teacher, Mrs. Jayne Hobgood is just that. Betsy said, "Mrs. H. is more than just an exceptional teacher and club sponsor to me. She was my surrogate mom and I was the daughter she never had. We bonded over books, drama, creative writing, chocolate, you name it."

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 lives. This is what Mr. Cuadrado has done for Corin McLean.

Corin said, "In Mr. Cuadrado's class we are supposed to define ourselves, not others. In my zeal to meet his high expectations...I gained confidence and began to speak up in my other classes. I made some friends, eventually learned Spanish and became integrated into the community."

As teachers inspire students, they also challenge them with a gentle mix of authority and encouragement. This is what Mr. Muilenburg has done for Kristin Lee. When Kristin's friends learned that she had Mr. Muilenburg for honors chemistry, they said, "Oh man, you better get a schedule change." But Kristin didn't and she found that one of the toughest teachers at City High School in Iowa City was also the best. Kristin said, "I looked forward to chemistry everyday because I knew our minds would be engaged and our hands would be active. Mr. Muilenburg teaches us beyond the textbook, he challenges us with deep questions...and demands we strive for excellence."

I know how rewarding and challenging teaching can be and what a remarkable difference a teacher can make in a child's life. When I was only eight years old I made a very mature and a very wise decision - I decided to be a teacher. I decided this not only because I loved school and writing on the chalk board. I wanted to teach because I loved my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Gnagy and I wanted to be just like her. So I went to college and earned a teaching degree, and after working as a teacher in Dallas, I gained a whole new respect for Mrs. Gnagy. But I loved every minute of it.

Every teacher here has many reasons for teaching, but one reason every teacher shares is a love for children. This is why Dorothy Moore, Michelle Sanders's favorite teacher, loves teaching. She said, "Kids are like a good old-fashioned box of Cracker Jacks. They're sweet, a little nutty, and full of surprises."

Seeing a child's eyes brighten with understanding is an experience that defies description - but one that every teacher can understand. Teacher Melissa Valentine, Sakura Christmas's most influential teacher said, "It's a great joy to see someone accomplish something they previously didn't think they could. I love watching students strive to create their visions and surprise themselves with their own abilities. This is what makes teaching magical - there is knowledge, skill, and pride where before there was fear and uncertainty."

And while students learn from their teachers, teachers learn just as much from students. Just ask Wesley Greenblatt's favorite teacher, Jeanie Williams, who has been teaching and learning from students for nineteen years. Jeanie said, "If intelligence were contagious, I would surely be profoundly brilliant by now. I am inspired by the students' enthusiasm for learning, energized by their insatiable curiosity, and encouraged by their potential talent."

We are all encouraged by the potential of our Presidential Scholars. And I hope that some of you will consider a career in teaching like Xiao Wang, who was inspired by his teacher Mr. Rockwood. Xiao said, "When I was preparing for competition last year, he volunteered his time during his vacation to work with me. It is that kind of dedication and spirit that has inspired become a teacher. I wish that I can wake up and be as excited to attend work as he is. I wish that I can meet 200 young people who adore me and soak up all I can teach them. I cannot wait to make my impact on society and that desire is strongly due to the teachings of Mr. Dennis Rockwood."

President Bush and I want more teachers like Mr. Rockwood and those we honor tonight in America's classrooms - more who believe that every child can learn and that every child deserves an excellent education. Our goal is for all children to experience the same bond that you have with your teachers and the same success you've earned.

The great Albert Einstein said, "Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach." Teachers, you have prepared these students for their next academic endeavor - and because you've shown them character, confidence and kindness, you've prepared them for life. Congratulations to the teachers here tonight and to the Presidential Scholars.


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