President Barack Obama honored 2013 Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau and all the State Teachers of the Year at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, thanking them on behalf of the country for their tireless dedication.
“They come from different communities and different schools, but the one thing that binds them together is they are absolutely devoted to nurturing the next generation. I want you to know that we appreciate everything you do. What you do in the classrooms is critical. The nations needs you,” Obama said.
A science teacher at Zillah High School in Zillah, Washington, Jeff Charbonneau was named teacher of the year on Monday by the Council of Chief State Officers. A National Board Certified Teacher and co-president of the Zillah Education Association, Charbonneau was singled out for his passionate dedication to transforming science education into an interactive and accessible learning experience for all his students.
“Jeff wants the best for his students and understands the importance of challenging them and engaging them,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We’re proud to have Jeff as an NEA member and leader as he puts a great face to the millions of NEA members who bring their very best to their classrooms every day for their students.”
This year marks the 63rd anniversary of the National Teacher of the Year Program, which honors educators representing the teaching profession as their State Teacher of the Year. This prestigious program allows teachers from across the country to collaborate with policy makers at every level and advocate on behalf of the teaching profession.
When Charbonneau began his teaching career at Zillah high school twelve years ago, the school had no science curriculum and no engineering curriculum. Students had to go off-campus for technology classes and computer resources were lacking.
“But Jeff was determined to turn that around. He wanted to convince kids that something like quantum mechanics wasn’t something to run away from. It was something to get excited about,” Obama said. Thanks to his efforts, science enrollment at Zillah has spiked and new teachers are needed to help fill the demand.
“It is this kind of transformation why I have proposed recruiting 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next decade.”
Obama also pointed out that Charbonneau’s accomplishments extend far beyond the walls of Zillah High. He is also the founder and director of ZHS Robot Challenge, a robotics competition that has involved hundreds of students across the state of Washington.
“Basically there is nothing that Jeff won’t try to give students the best education in every respect,” Obama said.
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“Do you see what I see today?” Charbonneau asked the crowd today at the White House. “Do you see the sparkle of pride in my fellow teachers eye? It’s the pride that comes not from winning awards, but in knowing they represent more than 3.2 million dedicated, hard-working teachers. We are just a small sample of the greatness of public education in the United States.”
Charbonneau also remarked how the teachers gathered at the White House represented a nuanced education-one that takes into account the individualized learning needs of the nation’s students.
“What I see in these teachers today is the state of public education in the country today. I firmly believe we are a nation of succeeding schools. It is time to share the message that the students in the United States have some of the best opportunities to succeed. Their teachers are high-quality educators, their districts are pro-active about their educations, and their government is committed to implementing real reform measures.”
“We are a nation of public schools that are continually working to improve and adapt to a changing world,” Charbonneau said. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”