Chauncey Veatch, a social studies teacher from Thermal, Calif., was honored as the 2002 National Teacher of the Year at a White House ceremony in the Rose Garden last week.
Mr. Veatch, 54, who teaches at the nearly 3,000-student Coachella Valley High School near Palm Springs, was recognized by President Bush and U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige along with 57 other teachers of the year representing their states or other areas.
He was chosen by a 15-member committee representing national education organizations. Mr. Veatch—who follows Michele Forman of Middlebury, Vt., the 2001 Teacher of the Year—will spend the next year speaking at public events and writing about education issues.
In his remarks at the April 24 event, Mr. Bush praised teachers, thanking them for shaping the minds of children. He called teachers “indispensable.”
Mr. Veatch, a former U.S. Army colonel, began teaching at Coachella Valley High in 1999 after retiring from a 25-year military career as a medical administrator. Nearly 99 percent of the school’s students are Hispanic, and many come from families of migrant farmworkers.
A fluent speaker of Spanish, Mr. Veatch is credited with using the students’ native language to communicate them and show respect for their culture. He re-established the California Cadet Corps at the school, pulling boys from gangs and sending troubled students with failing grades to the academic honor roll.
In accepting the award, Mr. Veatch said that teachers “teach the students of destiny.” He encouraged other Americans to use the “most formidable weapon” in the nation’s arsenal by becoming teachers and educating all children so that one day they can “create a world that will live in peace.”
—Marianne D. Hurst
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A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2002 edition of Education Week