2014 National Teacher of the Year Honored at White House

Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, was applauded by President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday in a ceremony to thank all educators “for their hard work and dedication each and every day in the classroom.” McComb, an English and AVID teacher in Baltimore County and NEA member, was awarded the prestigious title on Wednesday by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSO). All state teachers of the year and Education Secretary Arne Duncan also attended the event today in the East Room.

The National Teacher of the Year Program, now in its 64th year, 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.

“Great teachers set us on a better path,” Obama said today. “And you do it even when we ask so much of you. Teachers don’t get an off day, even when you’re exhausted. Once you get up in front of that class, you have eager young minds depending on you. It’s that all-encompassing commitment, the love they feel for their students, that makes so many teachers go the extra mile. It’s the dedication to helping all students reach their full potential, the passion and creativity that they bring to the work, instead of going through the motions and teaching to the test.”

President Barack Obama presents the National Teacher of the Year award to Sean McComb. Photo: Getty Images

And that is the story, Obama said, of the day’s primary honoree, Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year.

McComb was inspired to become  a teacher by his 11th grade AP English teacher, Mr. Schurtz, during a difficult time in his life when he was feeling lost and disengaged.

“Sean saw the impact a teacher could have in a child’s life,” Obama said. As coordinator of the  Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college readiness program at Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts  in Baltimore County, McComb works with students who, like him years ago, need a little more guidance to live up to their potential. Of the last two graduating classes in the AVID program, 98 percent were admitted to a four-year college.

“i could not be prouder of Sean, all the teachers here today, and all the teacher who are out there – the millions who are working hard in classrooms across the nation. We want to thank you,” Obama said.

Accepting the award, McComb called the teaching profession his “calling to do for others” what teachers like Mr. Schurtz did for him.

“Teaching is an opportunity to band together with others who deny the common assumption that demographics determine destiny,” McComb said. “It comes with challenges but also with the priceless rewards of changing lives, instilling hope in the hearts of children, and seeing potential come to fruition.”

As a new father, McComb said he will be depending on the “trusted and successful” public schools for his son’s education. “These are schools filled with teachers who help students fall in love with learning, who cultivate individual strengths, and inspire students to be their best.”

Schools will continue to do what they have always been doing – working to be better, McComb added.

“Change is hard and we do it when it is in the best interests of children. But it must be undertaken judiciously and it must value the complexity of our work. And it must be done with civil and critical conversations that respect the knowledge and experience of our classroom teachers. Teachers like those before you today.”