AFT Teachers Honored at White House Event

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A number of AFT members were on hand at the White House on Jan. 6 as President Obama announced several new initiatives to attract and retain outstanding educators in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Among those invited to the event were winners of Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The honor of introducing the president went to AFT member Barbara Stoflet of Minnesota, a sixth-grade math teacher at Gatewood Elementary School in Minnetonka.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be offered the incredible honor of introducing the president," Stoflet wrote in a White House blog entry. "I wish I could be in two places at once so I could observe my students as they watch everything unfold on their laptops! We'll have SO many brilliant discussions when I return! I was able to e-mail my students before school started today so I know this will be a top dinner table topic tonight!"

Video of Stoflet's introduction and President Obama's remarks is available on the White House Web site. "Whether it's improving our health or harnessing clean energy, protecting our security or succeeding in the global economy, our future depends on reaffirming America's role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation," the president said. "And that leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today, especially in math, science, technology and engineering."

He announced several new public-private partnerships that will offer additional training to more than 100,000 teachers and prepare more than 10,000 new teachers in the next five years. He noted that the latest partnerships bring private support for the "Educate to Innovate" campaign to more than half a billion dollars.

The president concluded his remarks by praising the vital work of educators. "Because in the end, the work that you do—and the difference you make—is what all these reforms are all about. Whether it's showing students how to record the habits of a resident reptile, or teaching kids to test soil samples on a class trip to Costa Rica; whether it's helping young people from tough neighborhoods in Chicago to become 'Junior Paleontologists,' or creating a mentoring program that connects engineering students with girls and minorities, who are traditionally underserved in the field—all of you are demonstrating why teaching and mentoring is so important, and why we have to support you, equip you, and send in some reinforcements for you."

Earlier in the week, another AFT member who attended the event—Kendra Pullen, a fourth-grade science teacher at Riverside Elementary School in Shreveport, La.—was featured on the White House blog. She wrote about the importance of teaching science and the joy of receiving the presidential teaching award. [Dan Gursky, White House]

January 7, 2010