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Jill Biden says the nation’s top teachers will be recognized at their own White House state dinner

By The Associated Press - | Apr 4, 2024

First lady Jill Biden arrives for a Women's History Month reception in the East Room of the White House, Monday, March 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden has new guidance for the nation’s top teachers.

When they visit the White House later this year, they will be the guests of honor at a state dinner, the first time that the diplomatic nicety typically used to woo foreign heads of state or government will honor educators, according to the first lady, a teacher herself.

Biden made the announcement Wednesday during a nationally televised appearance in which she surprised Missy Testerman of Tennessee, the newly named National Teacher of the Year.

“I’m a teacher, as you well know, and I’ve been teaching over 30 years, just like Missy has, and I always say teachers are our heroes and I wanted to be here today to celebrate Missy as I love celebrating teachers and I have a special announcement, Missy,” Biden said.

“When you come to the White House, we are going to have a state dinner for the teachers,” Biden said on the set of “CBS Mornings.” “You’ll have to pick your dress. So it’s the first time ever.”

Testerman said that would be “absolutely amazing.”

“I’m incredibly touched,” she told Biden. “I know how devoted you are to teaching, continuing to teach, even when you’re the first lady of the United States, first one ever to do that, and I know that we share the joy that there is to be found in education.”

She said the other state teachers of the year will be “so incredibly excited to hear, to hear this news. Thank you for doing this for us.”

Biden, who teaches English and writing at Northern Virginia Community College, said hosting the nation’s top teachers is “one of my favorite events at the White House.” She did not announce a date for the teachers’ dinner, but it’s likely to be held May 1, when the teachers come to Washington, a White House official said.

A black-tie state dinner typically recognizes the head of state or government of a close U.S. ally, showcasing ties between the two nations.

President Joe Biden and the first lady will host two state dinners soon, for Japan on April 10 and Kenya on May 23.

A state dinner for teachers will be new, but the overall concept isn’t unique.

As first lady, Michelle Obama, whose signature initiative focused on improving children’s health and nutrition, hosted the first of several kids’ state dinners in 2012. President Barack Obama held a state dinner for African leaders whom he invited to a Washington summit in 2014.

The Council of Chief State School Officers chooses the state teachers of the year and the national teacher of the year. Testerman and teachers from Alaska, Georgia and New Jersey were finalists for the 2024 national award.


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