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Press Release

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

President Obama Recognizes State and National Teachers of the Year

Contact:Olympia Meolaolympia.meola@ccsso.org202-336-7071

Washington, D.C. (April 29, 2015) - President Barack Obama today recognized the 2015 State Teachers of the Year and newly announced 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden today.

"This is one of my favorite days because it gives us a chance to acknowledge some folks who so often are giving so much and, let's face it, aren't always getting a lot in return," President Obama said. "Every day, the teachers behind me, they give their students their all -- their knowledge, their creativity, their focused attention, their love. They empty the tanks for their kids.  Then they get up the next morning and they do it all over again. And today is our chance to say thank you."

His full remarks are posted online.

National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples, a high school English teacher from Amarillo, Texas, took the podium after the President and talked about the importance of public schools.

Peeples said, "School is the place where so many of us learned to dream. Where we began the groundwork of our futures. Schools and their teachers are a stabilizing force in society and a fierce promoter and protector of our democracy. Public schools help us to find the most treasured thing any of us have: personal meaning and our contribution to the common good. Public schools must always stay open because teachers' doors stay open, saying: come in, let's learn, let's hope, let's begin dreaming."

The National Teacher of the Year Program is run by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and presented by Voya Financial. Through the Program, CCSSO identifies the best teachers in the country, recognizes their effective work in the classroom, amplifies their voices, and empowers them to participate in policy discussions at the state and national levels. Peeples was announced as the 2015 National Teacher of the Year on Monday.

The following are the full, prepared remarks of 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples:

Thank you, Mr. President. Your support of and belief in public education is one of the many things I admire about you. Your charge to create world-class learners is our mission and we answer it in our classrooms every day.

Thank you, Secretary Duncan for your advocacy of authentic learning and service for our students, and your support of teacher leadership.

Thank you to my wonderful family: I am nothing without you. Thank you to Kayla, my former student, to the Texas delegation, and my administrators..

Finally, thank you to the talented, passionate and remarkably good-looking group of state teachers of the year with whom I am privileged to join today. Each of them is a study in excellence and each of them is a representation of what a great teacher is. I am honored to stand here today.

As a teacher of refugee students, I've been privileged to see public education through the eyes of students from countries as diverse as Burma, Somalia, Iraq and Cuba.

Being here today makes me think of my student, Lar Bway.

She was a shy teenage girl who had little formal schooling and much suffering in her native Burma. One day, a snowstorm shut down the entire city. But, Lar Bway set off, trudging toward her school in blizzard conditions, clutching a backpack full of homework.

Her friends had to find her and convince her that the school was indeed closed. But how is that possible? She asked them. School was always open, like the hospital.

We are, in schools all over America, in a sense, never closed. So many teachers, like these behind me, stay after school to listen to students, go to their games or concerts, or just create a safe space where they can draw because we are stable, dependable adults.

For Lar Bway, school was special. We were her beacon, her stability, her source of inspiration, dreaming, and hope. This is the commitment that America and its schools offer all of our students: we will be here and we will help you. This is no easy promise, and that is why so many families send us their most valuable resource: their children. They trust us to teach them no matter their abilities, behaviors or financial situations.

School is the place where so many of us learned to dream. Where we began the groundwork of our futures. Schools and their teachers are a stabilizing force in society and a fierce promoter and protector of our democracy. Public schools help us to find the most treasured thing any of us have: personal meaning and our contribution to the common good. Public schools must always stay open because teachers' doors stay open, saying: come in, let's learn, let's hope, let's begin dreaming.

Learn more about the National Teacher of the Year Program and Shanna Peeples.

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The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.