By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; B04
Like most of the celebrity presenters at Monday night's Kennedy Center tribute to the District's top public school teachers, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters recalled one who made an indelible mark on his life.
In Grohl's case, it was his mother, a Fairfax County teacher for 35 years.
"She was up before the sun every day, grading papers, and every night when it went down," said Grohl, who grew up in Springfield.
The tribute, a Standing Ovation for D.C. Teachers, was organized by the D.C. Public Education Fund, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the public school system, to honor the 662 instructors judged "highly effective" under the city's new IMPACT evaluation system. Proceeds from the event will go to the fund. The tribute was staged with touches of award-show glitter and polish by George Stevens Jr., producer of the annual Kennedy Center Honors.
"If you got paid by the hour, you'd probably be making about $1.50 an hour," said News4 anchor Jim Vance, who hosted the evening. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, interim chancellor Kaya Henderson, former Redskins star Darrell Green and "Meet the Press" host David Gregory also appeared.
Seven teachers were singled out for special distinction: Angela Benjamin (physics), Woodrow Wilson High School; Roaenetta Mayes Browne (grades 6-8), Sharpe Health School; Sylvia Ewing (art), Kelly Miller Middle School; Charles Feeser (English), Benjamin Banneker High School; Deborah Flanagan (special education), Barnard Elementary School; Iver Ricks (early childhood Montessori), Burrville Elementary; and Maria Samenga (fourth grade), Harriet Tubman Elementary.
Each of the seven, who won a $10,000 award on top of the performance bonus that all 662 standouts received, paid tribute to their students and colleagues. They also honored the craft of teaching itself - a lonely and often undervalued job.
"It's a huge part of who I am. It's not just a job," said Samenga, who sported an arm-length set of tattoos that Grohl admired.
The evening also marked a curtain call for Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who received a standing ovation from the audience. She was joined by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and presumptive mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray.
But the evening belonged to the teachers, who reminded everyone that it was a school night.
"See you early in the morning," Ricks said.