First lady Laura Bush, presidential daughter Jenna Bush, and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings last week visited a class of 1st grade students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Washington as part of a week recognizing the Teach For America program.
The week is meant to raise awareness about schools in low-income communities by inviting guest teachers—celebrities and government officials—to visit the classrooms of educators trained by Teach For America, the nonprofit organization that enlists recent college graduates to teach in high-need urban and rural areas.
Mrs. Bush, a former librarian and schoolteacher, led the small group of students at King Elementary in a classroom exercise, asking the children the names and functions of ocean animals. Occasionally, she added an additional bit of description or fact about an animal, joking with the children.
Ms. Spellings asked them about forest animals, telling them that it was important to study science “to learn about the world around us.”
The secretary, who has never worked as a teacher, displayed a calm, no-nonsense instructional style.
“We need some more animals over here,” she told one boy, pointing to the one side of his paper and nodding in silent approval as she observed his progress.
“You’ve got some really smart kids in here,” Ms. Spellings said to second-year TFA teacher Laura Gilbertson, something the secretary reiterated to the children several times before the 40-minute appearance drew to a close.
Mrs. Bush told the students that the “reason we’re here today is because we wanted to come and teach you … [and] we wanted to encourage you to grow up and become a teacher yourself.”
Amy Black, the executive director of Teach For America Metro D.C., spoke warmly of the guest teachers.
“I thought [the first lady] led a very fun lesson,” Ms. Black said. “It means a lot to us that [these visitors] participated in this week’s events.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 23, 2008 edition of Education Week