Editor's note: The World-Herald invited Angela Mosier of Omaha Westside High School, Nebraska's Teacher of the Year, to write about her experiences while visting the nation's capital to be honored by President Barack Obama, among others.
Click here to read Mosier's full essay.
My journey as the 2013 Nebraska Teacher of the Year has been full of opportunities and experiences that have made me a stronger educator and advocate for the teaching profession.
It has seemed like a whirlwind since the announcement last October to my recent trip to Washington, D.C.
The National Teacher of the Year recognition events took place in Washington, D.C., from April 21-April 25. This was a much anticipated week, with a trip to the White House to meet President Barack Obama and to the vice president's residence to meet his wife, Dr. Jill Biden.
What a week! As soon as I arrived at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, I ran into my first State Teacher of the Year colleague, and it was like a family reunion every time another one walked in. Our first event together was a rooftop dinner overlooking the Capitol building and a nighttime tour of the monuments.
The week was full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. On Monday we spent time behind the scenes at the Smithsonian before we headed to Vice President Joe Biden's residence. Dr. Jill Biden warmly welcomed each of us at the door and invited us to make ourselves comfortable in their home. When she spoke to the whole group, I was inspired by her love for teaching and that even as the vice president's wife she continued to teach. She passionately spoke about the need to “lift up our profession” and that our young people should “want to be teachers.”
Tuesday was our big day at the White House. The best description of this day's events would be “surreal.” From walking in the doors to the east wing of the White House, to waiting over an hour in the Roosevelt Room, to stepping into the Oval Office, to shaking hands and talking with President Obama.
I have been asked many times by friends and family, “What was it like to meet the president?” My answer: This is the first time I have ever been speechless, which my students would say never happens. When I was introduced as the Nebraska State Teacher of the Year, everything I planned to say to him vanished. We shook hands, he asked what I taught and I proudly responded high school math at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. He told me that he “loved math teachers,” which I must admit was rather awesome. I told him that I was very proud to represent all the great teachers in my state and that it was an honor to be at the White House.
Smart Technologies sponsored a day of staff development on Wednesday and gave each State Teacher of the Year new Smart technology for the classroom.
A black-tie gala that evening gave me the opportunity to hear leaders in education speak and share their passion for the quality education we offer across the country. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered a strong message stating that our voices need to be heard to stop the divide between policy and practice in education.
After a morning at the Department of Education on Thursday, it was time to say our goodbyes, which is never easy to do, especially being around this group of educators. This passionate group of leaders in education continue to inspire me to be the best teacher I can be for my school and my students. I look forward to our next meeting in St. Louis for the 2013 National Forum on Education Policy and then again in July when we head to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.
I heard that I would make lifelong friends when I met the other state teachers of the year, but I never believed it until I met these wonderful educators.