During the first week of May, I had the incredible honor of attending the National Teacher of the Year Recognition in Washington DC. As I boarded my plane on May 1, 2016, I knew that I was in for the adventure of a lifetime. In the weeks prior to this trip, the State Teachers of the Year (STOYs) had received information regarding our activities for the week. However, there were many details that remained unclear. Going into this trip, my motto had become, “Expect the unexpected”. The very first day of the trip certainly lived up to that expectation.
After a joyful reunion in the lobby of our hotel, the STOYs and each of our guests boarded a bus to attend a reception at the Biden’s residence. On our way, our bus driver shared information about each embassy that we passed. There was much cheering after he informed us that he had been named the “Conductor of the Year” for his company. After waiting for the Secret Service to complete the security checks, we exited the bus and walked toward the gates of the Vice President’s home. As you can imagine, the progress was very slow due to all the pictures we were taking.
My eyes were wide as I entered the foyer of the Biden’s home. We were greeted cordially and served hors d’oeuvres by members of the Vice President’s staff. As I visited each room on the main floor, I couldn’t help but notice the family photographs. In every room, it was clear that this was truly a “home”.
I was standing in a room watching a string quartet perform when I suddenly heard a loud cheer come from the foyer. When I joined the crowd, my jaw dropped. Vice President Biden was standing at the podium joking with the crowd. We had been expecting to see just his wife, Dr. Jill Biden. This was the first time that the Vice President had taken part in this reception.
Vice President Biden’s and Dr. Biden’s respect for the teaching profession rang clear as they each addressed the crowd. Dr. Biden shared why she chose to continue teaching even while her husband served as our Vice President. Her husband joked about Dr. Biden lugging around a giant bag filled with her students’ papers. Dr. Biden also spoke about her work on behalf of children whose parents serve in the military. As she shared her stories, I thought of my own students who have been impacted by a parent’s military service.
Following their speeches, we were informed that each STOY and their guest would be able to take a picture with the Bidens in the library. Although I should have been toward the end of the line, a representative directed me and three other STOYs to follow him to the front of the line. I was given a card with my name and my state written on it. When I entered the library, I handed the card to a member of the staff and he introduced my mom and me to the Bidens.
Following a quick picture, the Vice President asked me what city I lived in, and he told me that he had just recently spoken at Tulane. After exchanging a few more words, I was escorted out of the library and to the Biden’s pool house. There, I was informed that I had been selected to do a media interview for Spotify. While waiting for the cameras and equipment to be adjusted, I looked around in amazement. I was sitting in the Vice President’s pool house being filmed for an interview. How did I get here?
Following the interview, I returned to the merry celebration inside. Later, the STOYs were called out onto the porch to do a group photo. There was much cheering as we were joined again by the Bidens. Following the group picture, they both took more pictures and spoke with the visitors. I was amazed at how warm and welcoming they both were to all of the guests.
It wasn’t until after this incredible event that I discovered that Dr. Biden had been asked by Spotify to dedicate a song to teachers. She had chosen “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. This was a great choice as this is the mindset of all of my fellow STOYs. It is also the mindset of all of those that have helped me to become the teacher that I am today. Thank you for believing in me!
Stay tuned to see what happened next in my adventures in Washington DC!