President Barack Obama has honored Jeff Charbonneau as the 2013 National Teacher of the Year. Charbonneau was joined by 52 other teachers from all over the country at the ceremony, which was held in the White House Rose Garden last Tuesday.
“Educators like Jeff and everyone up here today represent the very best of America—committed professionals who give themselves fully to the growth and development of our kids,” President Obama said. “And with them at the front of the classroom and leading our schools, I am absolutely confident that our children are going to be prepared to meet the tests of our time and the tests of the future.”
Over the past 11 years, this year’s National Teacher of the Year channeled his passion, devotion, and determination into making his school, Zillah High School in Washington State, one of the best in the country.
The school did not have a science class when Charbonneau began teaching there. But over time, Charbonneau helped his school build one of the best STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs in the nation. The school even has a popular robotics club now.
“I believe my greatest accomplishments are revealed when a student realizes that he or she has an unlimited potential,” Charbonneau said. “I think everyone should have the chance to be what they want to be when they grow up.”
The day before the ceremony, the Vice President’s wife, Jill Biden, hosted a small party at her home. Biden is a teacher herself, and she highlighted the important role of teachers in our society.
“The confidence you give [your students] carries them beyond the classroom,” Biden remarked. “For students, knowing there is someone at their side can make all the difference.”
In her speech, Biden specifically mentioned teacher Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship, from Maryland. Holmes-Blankenship grew up with a family in which drug abuse and violence were normal, and good grades seemed impossible. She says this has helped her work with students who have similar problems at home.
“These relationships are especially important to at-risk students, who feel more accountable when they know that a teacher they respect is looking out for them,” Holmes-Blankenship said.
At the reception, or formal party, Biden praised all her guests for inspiring both their students and her.
“I know each of you has stories that you have inspired [students]—stories that have inspired me and so many other educators,” Biden said. “So I want to celebrate teachers. Teachers are wonderful.”