The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 20, 2005

President Announces 2005 National and State Teachers of the Year
The Rose Garden

President's Remarks

11:10 A.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Congratulations, Jason. And congratulations to every one of our Teachers of the Year, America's Teachers of the Year. I love this event. I always look forward to it, in the few years that we've been here. Everyone of you are doing the most important job in the world -- no offense to the President. (Laughter.)

Once you love teaching, it's really very difficult to give it up. And I still love visiting classrooms around the United States and talking to young people, and teachers, and parents, and coaches, and now I'm talking to them about a new initiative called Helping America's Youth. Through Helping America's Youth, we're highlighting the fact that every child needs a caring adult in his or her life. And a teacher is often that caring adult.

In fact, when you ask young people who had the most influence on their lives, besides their parents, they often say a teacher or a coach. You teach the children the knowledge they'll need to grow into intelligent and discerning men and women. You also serve as role models and mentors to young people, helping them form strong characters and make healthy decisions.

All of you deserve the gratitude of your fellow Americans for dedicating your lives to helping our sons and daughters. I'm especially happy this year that there are so many men Teachers of the Year. More men are needed in our classrooms, more who can teach by example showing young boys, particularly, many who are growing up without fathers in their homes, how to be responsible, caring adults; someone little boys can look up to and say, I want to be just like him.

Our main speaker today is a pretty good role model for students, too. Children throughout America look up to the President. In fact, one little boy named Jeremy wrote to him and said, "You're a wonderful President. I think that Mrs. Bush is lucky to have you." (Laughter.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the man I'm lucky to call my husband, President George Bush. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Welcome. Welcome to the Rose Garden. And it's a beautiful day to continue the tradition of honoring America's finest teachers at the White House. We're really happy you're here.

Somewhere along the way, all of us got to know a teacher who made a real difference in our lives. In my case, I married one. (Laughter.) And I appreciate you. I appreciate my love for Laura; I appreciate Laura's love for teaching; and I appreciate the great job you're doing as the First Lady. (Applause.)

She was raised in Midland, just like you were, Carol. Maybe that has something to do with it.

We like to say in our household, teaching is more than a job; it is a calling. You know what I'm talking about. You wouldn't be sitting here if you had not heard the calling. By helping every child realize his or her potential, our teachers show their students that dreams can become reality. What a fantastic job, isn't it, to help somebody realize a dream can become a reality. All who answer the call to teach deserve our support, our respect, and our affection.

Somebody who understands the role of a teacher is our Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, who is with us. Margaret has been a longtime friend. We were involved with education reform in Texas. We bring the spirit of reform to Washington, D.C. And you're doing a fine job, Madam Secretary. (Applause.)

The Chairman of the House Education and Work Force Committee, John Boehner is with us, from the great state of Ohio. Thank you, John. Bob Filner from California; Doc Hastings from Washington; Leonard Boswell from the great state of Iowa -- welcome. Appreciate you all. (Applause.) I want to thank you for taking time out of your schedules to come here. This is an important moment, and I appreciate you recognizing it as such.

I want to thank the Mayor. Mr. Mayor, thank you for coming. I always like to tell the Mayor that it's important for the Mayor to fill the potholes -- (laughter) -- particularly close to White House, Mayor. And you're doing a fine job. Last time I saw the Mayor was at Opening Day. For those of you who follow professional baseball, you know that we've got the Nationals here in town. It's exciting for the Nation's Capital to have the Nationals. And one of the reasons the Nationals are here is because of the Mayor. And so, Mr. Mayor, thank you for your leadership. (Applause.)

And City Councilwoman Carol Schwartz, who I referred to earlier -- Laura, Carol and I were raised in Midland, Texas. Pretty long odds for three people raised in Midland to end up in Washington in the Rose Garden, by the way. (Laughter.) But welcome, glad you're here, Carol.

I want to thank the National Teacher of the Year Finalists: Stan Murphy from California -- San Diego, California; Vicki Goldsmith from Des Moines, Iowa; Tamara Steen from Washington State. We're proud you all are here. And, of course, Jason Kamras, who is standing right here.

I want to welcome his parents, Linda and Marvin. Thank you for coming. Congratulations on raising such a fine man. (Applause.)

And Jeremy -- Jason allowed his brothers, Jeremy and Michael, to show up, as well. (Laughter.) I asked one of the boys if they ever thought Jason would amount to anything. He told the truth. (Laughter.) Jason has proved you wrong. (Laughter.)

I want to thank the 51 other State Teachers of the Year for being teachers and being such an accomplished teacher that you're being recognized here in the Rose Garden. We welcome you here. We thank you for your compassion. And we welcome your guests, as well.

We welcome Tom Houlihan, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and we appreciate you sponsoring this event. We welcome Ernie Fleishman, the senior vice president of Scholastic, Inc., which is a sponsoring organization of this event. We welcome Tom McInerney, the CEO of ING U.S. Financial Services, which is one of the sponsors of this event. Obviously, this is a big event to have required three sponsors. (Laughter.) We're glad you're here. We want to thank the chief state school officers who are here today.

I want to pay particular respect to an educational entrepreneur who has shown one person can make an enormous difference. Wendy Kopp, the president and founder of Teach for America, is with us, and we welcome you back to the White House, Wendy, and we're glad you're here. (Applause.) There is a reason why Wendy is here, which you will hear in a minute.

America's teachers help our students develop the schools -- skills they need to succeed in our schools. That's what you do. You teach a child how to read and write, but you also teach a child how to think and hope. Teaching is a demanding job. It's an incredibly demanding job. And I hope our fellow citizens understand how hard it is to get to the classroom every day and to keep your spirits up, to keep your vision clear about what is possible, and to keep your patience. I'm sure we tested our -- patience of our teachers a lot, Mayor, when you and I were growing up. (Laughter.)

I appreciate the fact that good teachers instill a passion for learning. You know, passion is a powerful world -- word, and that's why the teachers are here with us, because they have instilled a passion for somebody to go to class every day to learn. When young people become good students with big dreams, they become better citizens. Our country is better off as a result of our teachers instilling passion and hope.

We expect a lot from our teachers, and teachers have a right to expect a lot from us. Education is one of the top priorities of this administration and this Congress. That's why we passed the No Child Left Behind Act. People from both parties came together. I love the spirit of the No Child Left Behind Act. I suspect the teachers love the spirit of challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations. People believe that we ought to set high standards, and believe that every child -- and if you do believe every child can learn to read and write and add and subtract, it makes sense to determine whether they are, so we can -- and if not, so we can solve problems early, before it's too late.

Because of teachers and hard work, because we expect every child to learn to read and write and add and subtract, there's an achievement gap in America which is closing. I can say it's closing because we measure to find out if it is closing. I'm proud to report that test scores are up. In fourth grade, math test scores are up across the nation by nine points over the last three years. Eighth graders improved by five points over the same period of time. We're making progress.

There is more to do. Margaret and I believe we ought to build on this success by bringing higher standards and accountability to the nation's high schools. I'm sure the nation's finest teachers share our commitment that every student must be prepared for college and, therefore, prepared for the jobs of the 21st century, so we can say after it's all said and done, no child was left behind in our country.

One of the finest teachers in our country is with us today. He is the 2005 National Teacher of the Year, Jason Kamras. He teaches mathematics at John Philip Sousa Middle School, right here in the Nation's Capital. Jason joined the Teach for America program. He did so because he wanted to show students, the so-called hard to educate, that with high works and high standards, they can overcome any challenge they face.

The Teach for America program asks for a two-year commitment. Jason is now in his eighth year of that two-year commitment. Because he chose to stay, countless students have better lives, and they have a better future. He's usually at work at 7 a.m., and he rarely leaves before 7 p.m. He's had high expectations for himself and he sets high expectations for his students. He works tirelessly to raise math scores, and his students are responding. Jason says, "Nothing surpasses the joy I feel when a student proclaims proudly, 'Mr. Kamras, now I get it.'" I suspect the teachers here understand exactly what he means by saying that.

Like all great teachers, Jason knows that his students' needs do not end when the school bell rings. He understands that at the end of the day, there's more work to be done. And so he co-founded a program called "Expose,", which takes students out of their southwest Washington neighborhoods to places like the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, or the National Gallery of Art.

Jason is also teaching his students how to produce photos about their lives and communities. I think you'll find it interesting to know that these photos have been shown at the Capital Children's Museum and other places around the District. In other words, Jason is building self-esteem.

When his students need individual attention, Jason is always there to support them -- interestingly enough, even after they've left the school. I suspect this is some of your -- some of you all share the same experience. When one of his former students was preparing for the SAT, Jason studied with him three times a week for 10 weeks. Isn't that interesting? The guy got a 1300 on the test. He now goes to Morehouse College in Atlanta. He's majoring in electrical engineering. He is the first person in his family to go to college. (Applause.)

He says, "I owe most of my success to Mr. Kamras. I do not know where I would be without him. He's more than a teacher to me. He is a true friend." Gosh, it must make you feel good as teachers to have somebody say, you made a lot of difference in my life, you are a true friend.

Today, America expresses its appreciation to Jason, and to every one of our outstanding State Teachers of the Year. You give our young people the benefit of your knowledge, your support, your friendship. Your students are fortunate, really fortunate, to have you in their lives. And our nation is fortunate to have you guiding the next generation of Americans.

God bless you all for your hard work. God bless your families, as well. It is my honor to introduce the 2005 National Teacher of the Year, Jason Kamras. (Applause.)

MR. KAMRAS: Mr. President, on behalf of the 2005 State Teachers of the Year, I would like to formally thank you for your invitation to the White House this morning. Let me also thank Mrs. Bush, Secretary Spellings, and all of the other honored guests who have joined us today to celebrate excellence in teaching across the nation.

I am privileged to be a member of a profession that is filled with so many extraordinary individuals. My colleagues work tirelessly every day, doing wonderful and challenging work. They lend their passion, creativity, intellect and love to children of all ages, and they do so almost always without recognition. There is simply no group of people that I would be prouder to represent.

To the State Teachers of the Year gathered here today, and to all of the other educators around the nation, let me say with the deepest admiration, thank you.

I would also like to thank my family, my friends, and inspiring colleagues at John Philip Sousa Middle School for their unceasing support and encouragement. Most of all, I want to thank my students. They are the reason I love teaching and the reason we are all gathered here today. Four of them are here, and if I could ask them to stand. (Applause.)

For the record that's Wendell, Ta-sha, Marco and Brandy. They inspire me every day with their intelligence, their humor, their creativity, and their resilience. (Applause.)

Mr. President and Mrs. Bush, let me formally invite you to Sousa Middle School. We're only a short drive down Pennsylvania Avenue. (Laughter.) I know my students would love to share their knowledge and their ideas with you.

Like all children, my students simply want the opportunity to pursue their dreams, and I am honored that I have been able to support them in their pursuit of their dreams. But there are still so many young people in under-served communities across the nation that still do not have access to an excellent education. This social challenge is why I teach. As educators, we can play a fundamental role in alleviating this inequity, despite the challenges we face, by holding ourselves and all of our students to the highest of expectations and demanding excellence from them. We can, and we do, make a dramatic difference in their lives every day.

As National Teacher of the Year, I call upon my colleagues to join me in helping alleviate inequity in education, to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education and the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

Thank you.

END 11:29 A.M. EDT

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