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2022 'Teacher of the Year' Kurt Russell honored in White House ceremony

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2022 'Teacher of the Year' Kurt Russell honored in White House ceremony
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden honored national Teacher of the Year Kurt Russell in a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

April 27 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona honored national Teacher of the Year Kurt Russell and other teachers from across the United States who have been recognized as the best in their field Wednesday.

Russell, a teacher at Oberlin High School in Ohio, teaches classes on African American history and developed a course on race, gender and oppression in addition to coaching the school's varsity boys basketball team.

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"I am truly blessed to be a part of a profession that transforms and legitimizes student voices and plants the groundwork for a more culturally responsive education," Russell said during the ceremony at the White House.

Russell, who's a member of the National Education Association, was announced as the winner by the Council of Chief State School Officers last week.

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"As 2022 National Teacher of the Year, he plans to advocate for classrooms to better reflect the students within them -- from a curriculum that reflects their backgrounds and identities to a more diverse teaching profession," the council said in a statement.

He used his speech to praise other teachers, including one of his colleagues who "has helped countless children's lives with her caring approach to teaching," as well as giving hugs to struggling children or snacks to those who are hungry.

Russell, who also is faculty adviser for the Black Student Union and was previously recognized by the Oberlin Heritage Center and Oberlin chapter of the NAACP, said he was first inspired to become a teacher when he encountered his first Black teacher in middle school.

"In him, I could see myself," he said.

The president opened his remarks by noting that his wife, Jill Biden, is the first first lady to work full time as a teacher, while noting that "people who made a difference in my life in a fundamental way were teachers."

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"Helping students see themselves in you, that's what happens I think. And helping all your students not only learn history but see that they have a role in shaping history," Biden said to Russell.

Jill Biden recalled that her grandmother, who was also a teacher, left her a bell she used to call students to class, saying that Russell and the other teachers honored on Wednesday similarly bring students together.

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"Today, all of you ring your own bell, pulling each person you teach into a harmony that never ends," she said. "Right now, someone out there is a better thinker because of you. Someone is standing a little taller because you helped her find the confidence that she needed. Someone is working a little harder because you pushed him to try. Someone is a little kinder because you showed her what that meant. And someone is braver because you helped him find his courage."

This week in Washington

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Ambassador of Ukraine to the US Oksana Markarova, and other members of the House unveil a photo exhibit on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the Capitol on Thursday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

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