‘Slow Down,’ Obama Jokes to The National Teacher of the Year

Apr 29, 2010 4:58pm

From Sunlen Miller

In the sun-splashed Rose Garden today, President Obama presented a crystal apple award to the National Teacher of the Year: Sarah Brown Wessling, a high school teacher from Johnson, Iowa

“One of her students reports that in Sarah’s class, ‘No discussion was fruitless, no assignment was pointless, and not one day was boring,’ ”the president said today, “And I’m not sure I could have said that when I was in school.”

The president praised the high school teacher for her ambitious agenda as a teacher and a mentor: creating individualized podcasts for each student with feedback on their papers, teaching basic writing to at-risk freshmen, developing 15 new courses this year, mentoring other teachers, organizing a statewide teaching symposium, helping design Iowa’s core curriculum, and serving as president of the Iowa Council of Teachers of English.

“Slow down,” the president joked.

“I think Sarah put it best when she wrote, simply, ‘My greatest contributions are my students.’  That’s true of us as a society as well –- that our greatest contribution is what we do for the next generation:  the sacrifices we make, the examples that we set, and all that we do to give them opportunities that we never dreamed of.”

The president said he’s committed to doing “every single thing” that he can to support teachers: creating better standards and assessments, making investments into education at every level, and rewarding excellent teachers.

But echoing his tough love message best known from the 2008 presidential campaign, the president said parents still have a key role in the education of their children as well.

“So let’s turn off the TV. Let’s put away the video games. Let’s read to our kids once in a while. Let’s make sure that homework is done, and that they get a good night’s sleep and a decent breakfast. Let’s reach out to their teachers and ask what we can do to help. Let’s be partners with teachers to prepare our kids to lead productive, fulfilling lives. 

The president joked that the event made him want to go back to school – but maybe not to take the exams, he quickly added.

-Sunlen Miller

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