Giving Teachers a Standing Ovation

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Under the bright lights of the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall, the audience rose to applaud and salute the 662 most highly effective teachers in the District of Columbia Public Schools.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined the city’s leaders, the teachers’ friends and colleagues at the DC Public Education Fund’s “A Standing Ovation for Teachers” event to celebrate our heroes in the classroom.

“What teachers do every day to transform students’ lives is amazing,” Secretary Arne Duncan said in his speech. “When they come in hungry, you get them fed. When they can’t see the blackboard, you get them glasses. Because of your tenacity and courage, students’ lives are changed every day.”

While all of the highly effective teachers received a standing ovation, seven of them were given the first annual Excellence in Teaching Awards. These teachers were selected from the entire pool of highly effective teachers through a process that involved classroom observation, student achievement data, recommendations, and interviews. They were introduced by local news anchor Jim Vance, former Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and other city leaders.

In a night of speeches about the power of teachers, the best stories came from the honorees. Benjamin Banneker High School English teacher Charles Feeser has his students create nametags referring to themselves as “Mr.” or “Ms.” instead of just their first names. “I believe in rituals,” he said in a video interview shown during the ceremony. “If students realize that there are rituals that transcend the classroom, they now have tools they can use in the larger public sphere.”

Another recipient, Iver Ricks from Burrville Elementary School, thanked her students for inspiring her every day and explained that she wanted to get them off to a great start in school “because we prepare them for life.”

This “Standing Ovation” event gave teachers the applause they deserve and showed once again that caring adults are transforming the lives of children every day.