First Lady Hosts 'Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers' Conclave
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 7, 2002 Nearly 130 top educators and education advocates from across the country, including Troops to Teachers participants, gathered in the East Room March 5 for the White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers.
"This conference is about making sure teachers have what they need. That includes a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of teaching skills and subject content, the ability to assess each student's specific needs and (apply) the most effective instructional methods and materials so that students make the greatest academic gains," said first lady Laura Bush, host of the three-hour conclave.
Military veterans "bring a wealth of experience" to the teaching profession, Troops to Teachers participant Arthur Moore said at the White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers. A retired Army staff sergeant, Moore spoke March 4, 2002.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The room was packed with legislators, university and business leaders, teacher education advocates, teachers' unions, principals, teachers, public policy organizations, foundations and Troops to Teachers participants from across the country.
Twelve speakers talk about research, credentialing, training, innovative programs to lure people to teaching as a second career, personal classroom experiences, moving from a military career into the world of educating America's youth and other alternative routes to teaching.
"When I was working as a teacher, I saw how important it was to have a very thorough knowledge of the subjects I was teaching and to be able to monitor my students' progress and to adjust my teaching approach to meet their needs," said Bush, a former inner city schoolteacher herself.
"Children achieve when their teachers clearly know their subject, when they know how to teach it, and when they regularly measure their students' progress," she emphasized.
To ensure its youth learn from the best teachers the country has to offer, the first lady said, America must address three issues: the growing teacher shortage; improved teaching standards; and a means to be sure students are learning what they need to know in every subject.
President Bush joined the first lady and told the large audience, "We've set a high bar here in Washington as a result of federal reform. We expect a lot. We expect children to learn. We believe every child can learn, and we want to know whether they are or not."
He said his administration wants to measure progress. "If you use the accountability system properly, you can determine whether a curriculum is working or not, whether classroom instruction methodology is working," the president said. "More importantly, you can detect problems early and secure them before it's too late. Every child matters, and that's exactly what the heart of this legislation is all about."
Emphasizing that teachers are expected to know their subjects, Bush said, "We want new teachers to be able to pass rigorous examinations so as to not only earn the confidence of parents and administrators, but to increase the professionalism of a very important field."
Teachers are also expected to be able to communicate basic skills and welcome measurement and accountability, he noted. "We expect them, as always, to be examples to our children, to live a life of good character," the president said.
Teachers have a right to expect certain things, too, such as parents teaching their children good manners and respect for the teacher in the classroom, Bush said. He added they also have the right to expect support for their professional development and to be treated like professionals.
Bush said his administration is committed to having "a quality teacher in every classroom in America." And to do this, the nation has made the greatest federal investment ever in quality teachers and principals through the No Child Left Behind Act. The act allows schools the flexibility to use federal funds for recruiting new teachers, improving teacher training or to increase teacher pay in critical need areas.
"We have made $3 billion of grants available to states to recruit, to prepare and to train teachers, a 35 percent increase over last year's budget," Bush said. "We're focusing much of the teacher training effort on specific needs, like special education or math or science, and one of my passions, early reading."
Calling reading "the new civil right," the president said the Reading First program is aimed at making sure every child of every background can read by the third grade.
"If you can't read, you can't realize the great American dream," he added. "We want every child to read, and I believe with the right focus, right effort, every child will read in America. And the country is going to be a lot better off for it."
Among the 12 speakers was retired Army Staff Sgt. Arthur Moore, who entered the teaching profession through the Troops to Teachers Program. Noting that his lifelong dream was to be a teacher, Moore said he joined the Army to save money to continue his education and ended up serving more than 21 years.
During that time, he attended night school to earn a bachelor's degree in business administration at National College in Colorado Springs, Colo. He has since received a master's degree in special education from Coppin State College in Baltimore and is a special educator working with students with special needs and their parents.
"I never gave up my hope of someday becoming a teacher," Moore told the gathering.
As his military career neared its end, he saw a notice about Troops to Teachers, applied and was accepted into the program. With the program's assistance, he moved his family from Colorado to Maryland, obtained his teaching certificate and went to work in the Baltimore school system seven years ago.
"Teaching is a profession that we can't take lightly," Moore emphasized. "We are charged by our community to prepare young minds to be our future leaders. There are many members of the armed forces who can answer the call to serve. Troops to Teachers can provide the bridge needed for those wishing to step into the classroom.
"These members bring a wealth of experience," he pointed out. "The military trains its members to be leaders, to accomplish missions given and above all, to take care of those below them. These skills can be a great asset when working with children."
Moore said nearly a quarter of all Troops to Teachers participants work in inner city schools. "Since its inception in 1994, nearly 80 percent are still in the classroom proudly serving," he said.