One night after celebrities flocked to Los Angeles for the Golden Globes, stars of a very different kind filled the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center in Washington: Roughly 1,800 public school teachers, administrators, and community members, including many of the 1,400 highly effective educators being recognized at the 5th annual Standing Ovation for DC Teachers.
The event, emceed Monday night by local news anchor and former teacher Jim Vance, featured presentations by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chancellor of Public Schools Kaya Henderson, among others. The evening also included performances by the Wilson High School Choir and singer Josh Groban, who was himself inspired to pursue a career in music by one of his middle school teachers. Mark Ein, chairman of the D.C. Public Education Fund, called it “the most unique, prestigious, and dare I say coolest teacher recognition event in the nation.”
In addition to the city’s highly effective educators, Standing Ovation also honored Principal of the Year Janeece Docal and the seven recipients of the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award, including Teacher of the Year Charisse H. Robinson, a 3rd grade teacher. The Rubenstein Awards for Highly Effective Teaching, Leadership, and Support Staff recognized an additional 30 local educators.
Several speakers throughout the night tried to pin down what, exactly, what makes a great teacher. Amanda Ripley, journalist and author of The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, noted that “Great teachers are not just born ... It’s that work that never stops that makes them exceptional.”
Kindergarten teacher Rachel Houghton went to the source, asking some of the 3-to-5-year-olds at her school what they thought it meant to be a great teacher. The responses ranged from “A great teacher gives back my Pokémon card she took away at morning meeting” to “A great teacher is patient, kind, and glorious ... A great teacher makes school my favorite place.”
Others spoke about the significance of a job that has such a large impact on the youngest generation. Para Perry, a music teacher and Excellence in Teaching honoree, described explaining the award to her students: “It’s not about me, boys and girls. It’s all about you.”
The evening was a unique opportunity for the city to recognize a group that Henderson called “our most precious resources,” and which Vance described as “too seldom honored and too little regarded.” In accepting her award, Perry told her fellow educators, “I could not have imagined a moment like this just for teaching.”
Image: Chancellor for D.C. Public Schools Kaya Henderson speaks at Standing Ovation for D.C. Teachers. Credit: Jordan Moeny/Education Week
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.