George W. Bush photo

Remarks at the National Teacher of the Year Award Ceremony

April 24, 2002

The President. Well, thank you, Rod. Thanks very much. I want to welcome you all to the White House and the spectacular Rose Garden. I'm a part of a proud tradition: For 25 years, American Presidents— for 50 years, American Presidents have been privileged to present the National Teacher of the Year Awards.

This ceremony not only honors a single individual; this ceremony honors an entire profession. Teachers make extraordinary contributions to the communities in which they live and, therefore, make extraordinary contributions to our entire country. We give our teachers a great responsibility, to shape the minds and hopes of our children. We owe them our thanks and our praise and our support.

I wish the First Lady would be here today. She is—she reminds me on a daily basis of the importance of being a teacher. When I married her, she was a public school librarian. She really didn't care for politics much—[laughter]—didn't particularly care for politicians. [Laughter] But I'm so glad she said yes when I asked her to marry me. She's a great First Lady and loves the idea of teaching, and one of her jobs is going to go around the country and remind people of the noble profession of teaching and encourage people to become teachers.

I appreciate Secretary Rod Paige. I've known Rod a long time; we're fellow Texans. When I picked somebody to be the Secretary of Education, I didn't want some theorist; I wanted somebody that had actually been in the trenches, who understood the importance of public education and how to make it work. And I wanted somebody that had a passion to make sure that no child got left behind in America. And I found the right man in my friend Rod Paige, to be the Secretary of Education.

Secretary Paige. Thank you.

The President. I want to thank two Members of the United States Congress: Judd Gregg, with whom I worked closely on the education bill we passed—he's from the State of New Hampshire—Todd Tiahrt from the State of Kansas. Thank you both for coming.

I just had the honor of having my picture taken in the Oval Office with 57 teachers of the year, and it was joyous. It was great. I want to thank you all for coming. It seemed like some of you were just as excited as I was to welcome—[laughter]— but it's a great office, as you could see. It's such an honor to be in that office on a daily basis, just like I know you feel it's an honor to be in your classrooms on a daily basis. So congratulations; thanks so much for being a teacher; thanks for setting such a great example; and welcome.

I also want to thank and congratulate our four finalists: Marian Galbraith, Henry Brown, Tracy Taylor Callard, and Chauncey Veatch. I'm going to say something about Chauncey a little later on.

Before I do so, though, I want America to remember how important it is to have good teachers in our classrooms. Teachers help students to read and write and to think and to count. These skills are essential, yet teaching them is only a part of a teacher's work. A good teacher instills in their students a lifelong interest in learning. A good teacher gives young people a sense of their own possibilities, along with a respect for themselves and for others.

To paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, the greatest teacher makes others believe in greatness. And they leave a lasting mark on the lives around them. And that's why it's easy for me to say teaching is such a profound profession. Teachers are indispensable. We ask a lot from them, and teachers are right to expect a lot from us.

I believe there is a role for the Federal Government in public education. It's—the role is to work with local folks to set the highest of high standards and to expect the best. It's to support people at the local level, with the full understanding that the best education emanates out of the classrooms, not from bureaucracies in Washington, DC. The role is to fund, which we do. And the role is to support our teachers through teacher training, retention, and recruitment, as well as to understand that simple things can matter to teachers a lot, like allowing for there to be a tax deduction for out-of-pocket expenses. We'll take the side of teachers as we work hard to provide a first-class education for every child—and we mean every child—in America.

This year's National Teacher of the Year understands the need to make sure no child gets left behind. He's made extraordinary contributions to his students, two of whom are with us today. I'm so honored that both these gentlemen came from California all the way over here to Washington to honor a teacher. It says a lot about our honoree.

This is a man who spent more than 25 years serving his country in the United States Army. Colonel Veatch, after serving the Army, turned to teaching over a decade ago. He now teaches social studies at Coachella Valley High in Thermal, California, where the overwhelming number of his students come from migrant families.

Chauncey Veatch is known as a kind and courteous, a tireless worker, a team player, a man who has transformed the school in which he works and the community in which he lives. Nearly all of the students at Coachella Valley High School are Hispanic. Y por eso, Mr. Veatch habla espanol. [Laughter] He speaks Spanish. He uses the language to communicate with his students and to show respect for a culture. He's involved in many after-school programs and community events. In short, he's changed a lot of lives for the better.

Through Chauncey Veatch's efforts, students long considered discipline problems started showing up on the honor roll. A teen with a learning disability who read at the elementary school level became an active participant in class. Boys dropped out of gangs to join the Cadet Corps, the student campus security force that he helped organize.

One migrant student at the high school had to work with his family until November, but Mr. Veatch saved him a place in his class and then spent hours with the student helping him catch up. According to this young man, "Mr. Veatch does this for all of his migrant students." No child will be left behind.

Mr. Veatch's former principal, Rick Alvarez, has paid this tribute to him. "Believing our students can succeed," Rick says, "is not a desire or a facade but is actually something Chauncey lives. This caring can be seen in his eyes and heard in his voice and felt in his presence and mostly seen in his actions."

Chauncey Veatch says his mission as a teacher is to be "a dream maker for my students, not a dream breaker." He understands that parents of every background share the same dreams for their children, dreams of improvement and independence and hope. "To dream is to be filled with hope," he says, "I know this because I see the faces of hope daily."

We want all our schools and all our teachers and principals to look at our children and see the faces of hope. And that's exactly what the teachers we honor today have done, on a daily basis.

Mr. Veatch, for teaching is not just a career; it is a high calling; it's a form of service to children and to a nation he loves. He has served both the children and our country extraordinarily well, and it is my honor to present Chauncey Veatch the National Teacher of the Year Award. Congratulations.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:25 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Rick Alvarez, assistant superintendent of administrative services, Coachella Valley Unified School District.

George W. Bush, Remarks at the National Teacher of the Year Award Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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