Teaching Profession News in Brief

Obama Lauds High School Educator Named 2010 National Teacher of the Year

By Elizabeth Rich — May 11, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A high school English teacher from Iowa who sees herself as the “lead learner” in her classroom has been named the 2010 National Teacher of the Year.

Under a picture-perfect blue sky during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, President Barack Obama described Sarah Brown Wessling as passionate and creative and highlighted her innovative teaching style. He also shared the words of one of Ms. Wessling’s students, who described the experience of being in her class in glowing terms: “No discussion was fruitless, no assignment was pointless, and not one day was boring.”

Speaking after the president during the April 29 ceremony, the 35-year-old educator described her classroom as a place where the teacher is the “lead learner,” and “the classroom walls are boundless.” The fact that she consigned her desk to a back corner of the room, she explained, “is an outward sign of an implicit philosophy that teaching must be learner-centered.”

Ms. Wessling, who teaches 10th through 12th grade English at the 1,300-student Johnston (Iowa) High School, has been in the classroom for 11 years and at her present school for 10. This year, Ms. Wessling, the department chair since 2003, created 15 new English courses, President Obama said.

Once students fulfill their requirements, they can select from such classes as “On the Road,” which explores metaphorical and physical journeys; “Sport, Competition, and Culture,” which looks at the cultural significance of sports; and “Genders’ Game,” which takes on the role of gender in history.

Johnston High School Principal Bruce Hukee said his school has made an effort to create courses that hold greater-than-usual appeal to students. “Sarah was very instrumental in creating classes that are more interesting to kids, giving them the opportunity to pick a class that they are interested in, instead of doing the same type of curriculum,” Mr. Hukee said in an interview.

Clay Guthmiller, the superintendent of the Johnston Community School District, described the curriculum model as “relevant.” “We have gone to more titled courses to create more interest for our kids and to create a more integrated approach [to learning],” he said.

A National Board-certified teacher, Ms. Wessling has earned a host of other honors, including the Promising Teacher Award and the Future Leader in Education Award, both from the Iowa Council of Teachers of English. The National Teacher of the Year Program is sponsored by ING and Target and is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 2010 edition of Education Week as Obama Lauds High School Educator Named 2010 National Teacher of the Year

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession What New Teachers Need
Ideas from the real world on making teachers' first years less overwhelming and more fulfilling.
5 min read
Illustration of a classroom diorama sitting on a student desk.
Illustration by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
Teaching Profession Opinion This Year Almost Drove Me Out of Teaching. The Right Leader Made Me Stay
After seven years teaching and one class away from becoming an education specialist, I have seen the highs and lows of education leadership.
Samantha Richardson
4 min read
Illustration of woman sitting on a mountain top looking into the distant landscape.
iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Maryland Teacher Wins $1 Million Global Prize
Keishia Thorpe received the prize for her work teaching immigrant and refugee students and helping them attend college.
2 min read
This photo provided by the Varkey Foundation shows Keishia Thorpe. The Maryland high school English teacher, who has worked to open up college education for her students, has won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize. The Varkey Foundation announced Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, that Thorpe, who teaches at International High School at Langley Park in Prince George’s County in Maryland, was selected from more than 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries around the world.
Keishia Thorpe, who has worked to open up college education for her students, has won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize.
Varkey Foundation via AP
Teaching Profession Opinion Teachers Need Therapy. Their Schools Should Pay for It
You can’t have student mental well-being without investing in the adults around them, argues clinical psychologist Megan McCormick.
Megan McCormick
5 min read
Illustration of nurturing.
Laura Baker/Education Week and Ponomariova_Maria/iStock/Getty, DigitalVision Vectors