President Trump skipped Monday’s ceremony at the White House to award the 2019 National Teacher of the Year to Virginia’s Rodney Robinson, but later met with him and other award-winning teachers in the Oval Office.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos presented Robinson with his award at the ceremony, which was also attended by state winners in the annual Teacher of the Year program. (The media was not allowed to attend.) After DeVos and Robinson made comments, there was a discussion among teachers and U.S. Education Department officials, according to a spokesman for the organization that sponsors the program.
“Teachers do a lot, some of which is visible, but much of which goes unseen,” DeVos said during her speech to the teachers, according to text provided by the Education Department. “Well, I’m here to say, we see you.”
“We see you when you encourage a student who is discouraged or needs a little extra help," she said. "We see you when you welcome a meeting with parents who are concerned about their child. We see you when you lay out new challenges to a student who is thriving, and when you stay late to offer extra help to another student who is struggling. We see you when you try a new tactic to engage students in a lesson and, upon success, when you share it with your peers.”
After the ceremony, Trump invited Robinson and other state winners in the Teacher of the Year program into the Oval Office to meet with him, Vice President Pence and DeVos, a White House spokesman said.
Robinson is a nearly 20-year educator who, in 2015, began working at the Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center. Now, he teaches social studies to incarcerated young people there.
Robinson was selected in the annual Teacher of the Year program, which is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Every year, winners are selected from each state as well as the District of Columbia, all U.S. territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity. They all come to the nation’s capital in the spring for the annual Teachers of the Year week, where the national winner is named.
The program began in the early 1950s, and presidents ordinarily present the national winner with an award. Trump did so in 2017 and 2018.
At last year’s ceremony, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, Mandy Manning of Washington state, presented Trump with letters from her refugee and immigrant students, and she wore pins that were in clear opposition to Trump’s policies on various issues.