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April 19, 1999: Honoring Teachers Of the Year

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Eight hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, teachers hold the future of America in their hands...The best way we can honor American's teachers is for the rest of us to give them the tools to succeed with our children in the 21st century.

April 19, 1999

Today, in an annual ceremony at the White House, the President honored the National and State Teachers of the Year and discussed his initiatives to strengthen the quality of teaching in our nation's schools.

Recognizing Excellence in Teaching. The National Teacher of the Year program began in 1952 and continues as the oldest and most prestigious national honors program focusing public attention on excellence in teaching. The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a national selection committee representing the major education organizations. The 1999 National Teacher of the Year, Andrew Baumgartner, a kindergarten teacher from Augusta, Georgia, will spend the year traveling nationally and internationally as a spokesperson for the teaching profession. Fifty-five Teachers of the Year were represented at today's ceremony.

Calling for Initiatives to Ensure High-Quality Teaching. President Clinton reiterated the call he made in his State of the Union Address for Congress to enact legislation to:

  • ensure that states and school districts require new teachers to pass performance exams;
  • phase out the use of teachers with emergency certification; and
  • require secondary school teachers to have a major or minor in the subject they teach.

The President also discussed several initiatives announced earlier this year to help schools meet these higher standards and to attract talented, well-prepared teachers into our classrooms:

  • a second installment of $1.4 billion for the President's Class Size Reduction Initiative to hire 100,000 teachers to reduce class size in the early grades to a national average of 18. To ensure that this initiative supports high-quality teaching, school districts may spend up to 15% of these funds for teacher training and other related activities;
  • $35 million in funding -- up from $7.5 million last year -- to provide scholarships to 7,000 outstanding students who commit to teaching in high-poverty urban and rural public schools;
  • an $18 million initiative to build on the successful Troops-to-Teachers program to train and place thousands of retired military personnel and other mid-career professionals as new teachers in public schools, especially in high-need subject areas like math and science and in high-poverty schools;
  • a $10 million initiative to begin recruiting and training 1,000 teachers who commit to teach in schools with high concentrations of Native American students; and
  • $18.5 million for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and nongovernmental body devoted to strengthening the teaching profession by developing rigorous standards of excellence in teaching; recognizing and rewarding outstanding teachers; and keeping our best teachers in the classroom where they are most needed.

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