The East Room

Thank you, Secretary Cardona. Miguel, Joe and I are so grateful for your work – when you’re around, it’s hard not to feel excited for our future. You know that education can change lives, and you’re fighting every day for our students and their educators.

Second Gentleman Emhoff – Doug – You’re the best second gentleman ever. And I’m so glad to be able to call you a fellow teacher.

Secretaries Becerra and Buttigieg, Carolina, Chasten – thank you, and the other administration officials here, for taking the time to be here tonight. 

And we have so many incredible members of Congress joining us who have come out of the classroom or worked in education. I’m grateful to have you here – and we’re all grateful for your work to support our educators.

Welcome to the White House! And the first-ever Teachers of the Year State Dinner.

Tonight, we celebrate you. Because teaching isn’t just a job. It’s a calling.

And all of you were called to this profession for a reason. You believe that a better world is possible – and you make that world real, one student at a time. As you sit here tonight, you don’t just represent yourselves – you represent your entire communities, parents, students, and educators, who thought you were the best of them, and they selected you.

And none of that could happen without the support of our unions.

Randi, Becky – thank you for always showing up for your members. We’re all so grateful for your leadership.

To CCSSO leaders here: we couldn’t do this without you. You are treasured partners.

And CCSSO worked with your principals to present you with a gift from home – the surprise that was on each of your seats tonight. We’re so grateful for all their hard work.

As I’ve traveled the country as your first lady, it’s been my honor to meet so many incredible educators in classrooms and student centers and libraries.

Teachers who redid their lesson plans overnight during the pandemic and came to the rescue as students faced a crisis like never before. Teachers who support our military kids as they start over in their newest school, because the average military kid changes schools between six and nine times before they graduate from high school. Teachers who are helping students find career paths that will change their lives – leading dual enrollment courses, and providing hands-on learning in science labs and carpentry classrooms, so students can take a first step toward a career they love.

I always knew that Joe would be the education President. And he’s delivered on his promises: An amazing Secretary of Education who comes out of the public school classroom. Following a devastating pandemic, he reopened our schools safely and quickly, making historic investments in public schools to support our teachers, the academic and mental health needs of students, community schools, and career and technical education. He fixed student loan relief for public servants.

And he’s fighting to make sure educators are paid what they’re worth. Since Joe took office, 30 states and DC have increased teacher pay!

To answer this call of service, is in itself, an act of hope. You look at your students and don’t just see who they are today – you see all the possibility of tomorrow. You help them find the light within themselves. And that light lives on in all of you. Tonight, as I look out at the glow of these candles, you all shine so brightly. This room represents potential – the glittering hope ahead – what we give to the next generation.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would sometimes take me to school with her, a one room schoolhouse in a small town in South Jersey. She loved her work, and her students loved her in return. And she used to call her students to class with a big brass bell.

When she died, she didn’t leave behind a giant estate. But what I inherited from her – what I still have to this day – is that bell.

And I sometimes think about the way her legacy resonated into the world like waves of sound, changing those who heard its ring.

I think of every student she taught, and wonder what amazing things they grew up to do. Perhaps they are public servants working to make our communities a little stronger, a little fairer. Perhaps they are doctors saving lives, or architects building our cities, or scientists working to solve global challenges.

And of course, there’s at least one teacher.

Today, all of you ring your own bell – pulling each person you teach into a harmony that never ends.

Right now, someone out there is a better thinker because of you. Someone is standing a little taller because you helped her find the confidence she needed. Someone is working a little harder because you pushed him to try. Someone is kinder because you showed her what that meant. And someone is braver because you helped him find his courage.

Never stop ringing that bell. Never forget that, student by student, the lives you change go on to change the world.

Let’s raise a glass: to you.


Nestled among the Smoky Mountain peaks and rolling hills, sits Rogersville City School. And at that school, in a classroom lined with pictures of her students, there’s a teacher like no other: Missy Testerman. For the last 31 years, she has supported students there, not just as learners, but as members of the community.

When their families need help going to the bank, she takes them. When students need to learn how to make a phone call, she teaches them. When the plumbing was making the entire school smell – she brought educators and community members together to get it fixed.

And, years ago, when she realized students weren’t performing well academically – despite incredible teachers who were trying each day – she turned the first six weeks of school into Bootcamp Academy – where students learn how to understand questions and expectations – so they can learn how to learn. And her students thrived. She recruited colleagues, and suddenly, everyone was doing bootcamp academy – and students soared.

I’m honored to have Missy representing our profession.

As her students say: “She makes everyone feel important.” “She helps us feel more welcome.” “She made sure I was taken care of.” “She makes me smile all the time.” “She’s the best.”

Please welcome, your National Teacher of the Year, Missy Testerman.


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