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2013 national teacher of the year President Barack Obama poses with the 2013 National Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau, (center left), Education Secretary Arne Duncan (far left), and other finalist during a ceremony on April 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Nation's Top Teachers Honored

President, Second Lady celebrate National Teacher of the Year, 52 other educators

By Emily Shao | April 25 , 2013

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama honored Jeff Charbonneau as the 2013 National Teacher of the Year. Charbonneau was joined at the by 52 other teachers from all over the country at the ceremony, which was held in the White House Rose Garden

"Educators like Jeff and everyone up here today represent the very best of America – committed professionals who give themselves fully to the growth and development of our kids," President Obama said. "And with them at the front of the classroom and leading our schools, I am absolutely confident that our children are going to be prepared to meet the tests of our time and the tests of the future."     

The day before the ceremony, Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden hosted an intimate reception for the educators at the Vice President's residence at the Naval Observatory.

Dr. Biden is an active teacher herself, and she highlighted the important role of teachers in our society.

"The confidence you give [your students] carries them beyond the classroom," Dr. Biden remarked. "For students, knowing there is someone at their side can make all the difference."

Jeff Charbonneau, the 2013 National Teacher of the Year, has certainly made an impact on his students.

kid reporter interviewing 2013 national teacher of the year jeff charbonneau
Kid Reporter Emily Shao interviews 2013 National Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau at the annual Teacher of the Year reception hosted by Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy Emily Shao)
Over the past 11 years, Charbonneau channeled his passion, devotion, and determination into making his school, Zillah High School in eastern Washington state, one of the best in the country. Zillah went from lacking its own science classes to having one of the best STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculums in the nation. The school even has a popular robotics club now.

"I believe my greatest accomplishments are revealed when a student realizes that he or she has an unlimited potential," Charbonneau said. "I think everyone should have the chance to be what they want to be when they grow up."

"Even though we have a very good education, I still think that there is lots of room to improve," he continued. "As the Teacher of the Year, I will try to get that message out to everybody."

Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship was at the reception as the Maryland Teacher of the Year. Dr. Biden said Holmes-Blankenship should be praised because she has "recognized that the importance of teachers goes beyond the classroom."

Holmes-Blankenship grew up with a family where substance abuse and violence were normal and academic success could seem out of reach. With that background, she said she enjoys feeling "connected" to her students, including those at-risk ones.

"These relationships are especially important to at-risk students, who feel more accountable when they know that a teacher they respect is looking out for them," Holmes-Blankenship said.

Stories like these are what make these teachers stand out – to their students and to other educators. At the reception, Dr. Biden commended her guests for inspiring their students – and inspiring her.

"I know each of you has stories that you have inspired [students], stories that have inspired me, and so many other educators," Dr. Biden said. "So I want to celebrate teachers. Teachers are wonderful."

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