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Members of Congress #ThankATeacher on National Teacher Day

Lawmakers open up on how their favorite teachers inspired them

WASHINGTON - May 06, 2014 -

From Alaska to Florida and Maine to California, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are paying tribute to the teachers who helped to shape their lives—whether it was a history teacher, a wrestling or football coach, a college professor or a high school science teacher who inspired a future doctor—and remembering to #ThankATeacher. For National Teacher Day, Tuesday, May 6, the National Education Association has collected a list of teachers who made a lasting impression on America’s elected officials and inspired them to become who they are today.

“The impact that a caring, committed teacher in every classroom cannot be exaggerated when we look back and reflect on the most memorable teachers of our elected officials and how a dedicated individual profoundly influenced their lives,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who taught high school mathematics for 23 years. “This week, members of Congress are honoring the special teachers who motivated and challenged them to reach for the stars. Their testimonials are a timely reminder of the importance of patience, discipline and encouragement in a student’s life.”

NEA’s “Most Memorable Teachers List,” containing the favorite teachers of more than 80 members of Congress, provides a snapshot of the teachers who made an impact on the lives of politicians. The list includes candid comments about what made these educators so memorable.

For Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., it was her fifth and sixth grade teacher who “helped me shine academically and at that often fragile age, gave me confidence when I wasn’t always sure of myself.” The most memorable teacher of Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) was his fourth grade teacher who taught him it was “OK to be smart.” Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) lists his second grade teacher as an instrumental figure in his life. “[Mrs. Taylor] understood the trauma I was experiencing in our dysfunctional home, and she took extra time with me to make sure I had the tools to succeed.”

Reps. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-Ga.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Michael H. Michaud (D-Maine) list their civics teachers as tops—even crediting them for encouraging their entry into politics.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who also is teacher and recently elected to Congress, named his social studies teacher as his favorite. “I’ll never forget the day she brought Congressman George Brown in to speak to the class. His speech…is one of the main reasons why I am where I am, as it inspired me to find ways to serve my community.” California Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat, added his favorite teacher “taught me the workings of the American government and…maybe he could teach today’s D.C. a thing or two!”

And there were some surprising picks on NEA’s “Most Memorable Teacher List.”

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska At-Large) remembers the teacher who failed him as his favorite. “She flunked me—and rightly so!” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) named the “intimidating” yet inspirational teacher who “literally…shook me into realizing I had academic potential.”

On the eve of the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, members of Congress took the opportunity to reflect on the fight for equality and equity in public education.

“As a young girl in El Paso, Texas, my parents and grandparents refused to participate in the segregated public school system in the area,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who alternatively attended a St. Joseph’s School where her favorite teacher “planted an early seed in my heart that led to my career in public service and my continued fight for equality.”

NEA celebrates National Teacher Day each year on Tuesday of the first full week of May. The day celebrates the outstanding work and lifelong dedication of teachers nationwide.

“Everyone has a favorite teacher, and there’s no better time than National Teacher Day to remember those who inspired us to be the individuals we are today,” added Van Roekel. “We know that appreciation alone will not reduce the challenges teachers face to help meet the needs of their students, but it will let them know their efforts are not going unnoticed.”

For more information on National Teacher Day, visit
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Staci Maiers, (202) 270-5333 cell,