WASHINGTON — He didn’t get the crystal apple awarded to the National Teacher of the Year by President Barack Obama, but a Mesa high school teacher said his visit to the White House this week was still a “surreal, almost an out-of-body experience.”
There was an official handshake with each teacher during Wednesday’s ceremony, but Westwood High School teacher John-David Bowman said it was still a little unreal until the teachers got a peek of the commander in chief outside the Oval Office beforehand.
“He opened the door and we got a glimpse of him,” Bowman said of the president. “I think it all hit us like, ‘Oh, this is real, we’re going to meet the president.'”
Bowman was one of 56 Teachers of the Year from U.S. states and territories who gathered in the White House’s Rose Garden on a cloudless Wednesday morning to be honored and to announce the national winner from among their ranks.
Bowman, who teaches history, said that the teachers honored were not the only ones deserving of praise.
“I think the state of Arizona is really lucky and I think it’s almost a secret — we have amazing teachers,” he said. “I think more teachers should be celebrated.”
Obama pointed out to a receptive crowd that praise is not all they need.
“They deserve our support and our appreciation. And they also probably deserve higher salaries,” he said, garnering a collective laugh.
Bowman said that moving forward after being honored he plans on celebrating other teachers as much as he can.
“I’m a big fan of paying it forward,” he said. “I would not be where I am today if I didn’t have veteran, caring, compassionate teachers that helped me and took me under their wing, and I think that’s really key to helping our profession.”
When describing the National Teacher of the Year, Shanna Peeples of Amarillo, Texas, Obama echoed the sentiment that good teachers don’t just help students, they help other teachers.
Bowman said he thinks that more teachers should lift up others in the profession when they see they need help.
“If a teacher is struggling, we need to rally around them and bring them up,” Bowman said.
“I think this is a powerful career where you can impact the lives of a lot of people and I think overall our state and our nation really needs to raise the level of prestige we have for the teaching profession.”