Obama, White House Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day

(Photo: Marc Nozell, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Marc Nozell, Creative Commons)

To commemorate this year’s National Teacher Appreciation Day, President Obama stood with hundreds of educators to trumpet the progress that the United States has made in increasing educational opportunities for students nationwide. The President also spotlighted some of the nation’s most remarkable educators and announced bold initiatives to build on the progress that has been set in motion by his administration.

When President Obama assumed office, the economy was collapsing and shedding over 600,000 jobs a month. To cope with such losses, state and local governments began slashing their budgets, affecting hundreds of thousands of teachers nationwide and jeopardizing the American education sector. In response, the Obama administration enacted the Recovery Act, which saved the jobs of over 400,000 teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors.

Since then, the Obama administration has invested more than $2.7 billion in grants to recruit, train, support, and reward educators, particularly those in high-need and rural districts. This year, the President rolled out a host of new partnerships that will continue supporting excellent educators well after his tenure in office concludes.

Through a new program called Teacher Impact Grants, the U.S. Department of Education will be working with several different organizations to provide direct support to teacher-led initiatives to improve student outcomes ad professional learning. The funding will provide teachers with $5,000 – $15,000 grants “to accelerate positive change in professional learning at the classroom, school, and district level.”

The Department of Education also announced that it is spearheading a public-private collaboration with Microsoft, Facebook, and MyCollege Options to “inspire the next generation of teachers.” The initiative will work to reach college students considering career choices in education by providing them with needed information.

Additionally, it has been confirmed that the ambitious goal set by President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union address in which he called for 100,000 new STEM teachers within the decade will be reached. So far, a network of 280 organizations called 100Kin10 has trained more than 30,000 STEM teachers, and it is committed to training 70,000 more within the next five years.

Interestingly, the music-sharing network Spotify also announced a series of initiatives to highlight creativity in education. This week, the website is encouraging its users to share songs and stories about influential teachers with the hashtag #ThankATeacher. It will also provide creative tools for educators to encourage and instill the value of arts education throughout the year.

The College Football Playoff Foundation also announced that it will make $100 million investment in teacher initiatives over the next ten years as well. The Foundation will develop a campaign that encourages public support of the teaching profession. Its previous initiative, Extra Yard for Teachers, has reached over 1.2 million teachers and students through 6,000 classroom projects in over 5,000 schools. The goal of these projects was to increase the recruitment an retention quality of teachers.

The Obama administration has long advocated for the importance of public-private partnerships in advancing education. These partnerships have a clearer focus and greater durability than do strictly federal or state programs, and the initiatives announced are geared toward generating a beneficial impact on education for years to come.