Friday, May 2, 2014

A Perfect Day

Thursday, May 1, 2014 was one of the most exciting days of my life, and I'm thrilled to share it with you. The State Teachers of the Year left our hotel on the bus early in the day and landed at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is part of the White House complex. We went through the Secret Security process which involved looking us up in their computers. My ID was insufficient, apparently, and I had to recite some personal information. ...Montana...

We were at the EEOB for a meeting with Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education in the Domestic Policy Council and Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council. They served us lunch and asked for our input on a variety of topics, whatever we felt was important, really. 

Since there are 53 of us it was impossible to hear everyone's thoughts, so I found an opportunity to speak to Mr. Rodriguez after the forum about education in Indian Country. My message was really a reminder that it is crucial, when working with tribal communities, to build relationships first due to historically founded distrust of the federal government and the importance of partnerships in those communities. He was very receptive and shared that it is a priority of Secretary Duncan. Maybe when he visits my area in June some community members, educators, and I can meet with him?


After this forum, we were off to the White House. We were guided by staffers the whole way - every few feet there was someone saying, "right this way, please keep going, no more pictures!" Finally we were inside the state dining room. In this room hangs a portrait of Lincoln. You can walk from the dining room to the Red Room, Blue Room, and Green Room, and then into the East Room where the event would take place. Even though that day was gorgeous, the incredible rain of the previous two days made the Rose Garden too soggy to use. We did practice the line-up in the East Room once but had a long while to explore the four rooms plus the ladies' room where there were portraits of First Ladies. Apparently the men's room had books and swords. Hmm.

At one point our coordinator came running into the room to announce, "Hooray! He's in a good mood today!"

They didn't let me attach the feather to anything so I just held it there. The guy behind the podium is checking the microphones.

This is the view from the Blue Room toward the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.
Here is the line to meet the President. He is in the room past the red room, on the left, looking away.

Eventually it was time to line up. We had already practiced this, by height, so I was fifth from the end. Each of us had a card with our names and states. The Marines in attendance ensured that our names were printed correctly and they could pronounce them. As I approached the President in the Blue Room, Marines directed me: step here. Step here. There will be two flashes. After the second flash, step in and shake his hand.

The second flash went off, and I stepped in. The President of the United States shook my hand. The man announced my name and state. Mr. Obama said, "And what do you teach?" I said, "I teach high school English, on the Flathead Indian Reservation." He said, "Wonderful!" and we turned for the picture. One flash, two flashes. "Keep up the good work," he said as I exited the Blue Room. "Thank you, sir."

I handed my card to the announcer, who double-checked the pronunciation of my name, and then spoke it into his microphone. I walked into the East Room, filled with press, family, and friends. Here is a link to the announcements and ceremony

After the ceremony, we had a few moments to meet with our family members. They were then escorted out. After collecting our things from the dining room we walked right through the front doors of the White House. Here are a couple of victory shots of that experience.

Jon Quam, director of the National Teacher of the Year program, says we are the most exuberant group he's had. I don't know if that's true, but we certainly are close to each other. We had tshirts made and did a flash mob in Dupont Circle ... what an amazing way to cap off this experience!

I'd like to end this part of The Warrior Trail by showing you the statue and message in a little park directly across from the hotel. Those who know me well know that I revere Mahatma Gandhi. Everyone's personal philosophy is their own business, but I believe that teachers have entered a profession that requires us to embody our beliefs. Finding this statue with its message last night was the perfect end to a perfect week and the ideal send-off to go back to my class and community, and to live my message.

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