Remarks at a White House Ceremony Honoring National Teacher of the Year Theresa K. Dozier

April 18, 1985

Welcome to the White House. I want to thank Good Housekeeping magazine, the Encyclopaedia Britannica companies, and the Council of Chief State School Officers for sponsoring the Teacher of the Year Award. We're very happy to welcome a contingent of aspiring teachers today, and we're delighted to welcome the family members and associates of our most distinguished guest. We appreciate your coming all the way from South Carolina just to chaperone Mrs. Dozier -- [laughter] -- and make sure she doesn't get into any trouble here in Washington.

All of us are here to honor a very special American. She and her colleagues are day by day, in their quiet, unsung way, probably more important to the survival and the success of our freedom than anyone else in this nation. And that's how much teachers mean to America.

Good teachers must be so many different people: our child's third parent and lifelong friend; the person who makes hard things seem easy; who teaches us to think apart, yet act together; and who conveys the meaning of ideas and, through personal example, the nobility of ideals.

Sometimes, when targets of others' rudeness and abuse, teachers must feel a little like an American dartboard, but they're tough, resilient, and pretty and clever, too. [Laughter] They can be funny or cross, but they stick to their challenge, whether it's with math, English, or history or teaching about word processors, which incidentally still leave me at a total loss. I haven't even mastered a pocket calculator yet. [Laughter]

And most of all, good teachers care. They care very much about what they teach, about the curiosity they instill, about how well their students learn, and where their lives will lead. So, we look to teachers, and we look up to teachers. We count on their conscience, their courage, and their concern. We count on them being the hero that Emily Dickinson once described: ``If I can stop one heart from breaking . . . If I can ease one life the aching or cool one pain . . . I shall not live in vain.''

Each gifted instructor, each leader helping restore excellence in education today is a vessel of hope for America -- hope that ignorance may be cast away; hope that young minds may be awakened to new discovery; and yes, hope that we may always be free, for with freedom, our guiding star, America's future will never be a burden dragging us down but a great soaring adventure of creativity, powered by the deepest treasures of the human mind and heart -- wisdom, faith, and love.

We have such an individual with us today. Born in Vietnam, orphaned as a young girl, then adopted by U.S. Army Warrant Officer Lawrence Knecht stationed in Saigon, Mrs. Therese Knecht Dozier enjoys a dual honor: She and her brother are believed to be among the first Vietnamese children adopted by an American couple. And as a 32-year-old high school history teacher in Columbia, South Carolina, Terry Dozier is America's 1985 Teacher of the Year.

She's said, ``I've always been very conscious of having been given a chance to make something of myself. I want to give that chance to others and to share the excitement of learning that I've always felt. Teaching is a way of repaying that debt.''

And she has. Terry is a teacher of world history who provides students with perspective and the ability to make sound judgments. ``She makes history exciting,'' one of her students said. Terry, I'm told your account of Louis XVI's ride to the guillotine was so packed with suspense that you had your students sitting on the edge of their seats. [laughter]

Her teaching is a reflection of her own experiences, a statement that there is no certainty our values will survive, that everything depends on us, and that no one should take America for granted.

I strongly believe, and I know that Secretary Bennett agrees, that our actions must reflect an awareness of history and human nature if mankind is to avoid repeating the tragedies of the past. By helping young people acquire such knowledge, Mrs. Dozier is contributing directly to the health and vitality of this country and to its freedom.

Mrs. Dozier, for all that you do so well, not only teaching but coordinating homecoming half-time activities, cheerleading in the student-faculty basketball game, and even dressing up for Punk Rock Day -- [laughter] -- we salute you.

Let me just say for the entire country, what your family, your fellow members of the faculty, and your students at Irmo High already know, you are Teacher of the Year because you've taught so many, so much, and so well, and even more, because your gift has given them joy and love of learning. And I don't think I'm speaking out of school when I add, the love they share for learning is a love they share for you.

Mrs. Terry Dozier, today, America honors you, but in truth, it's you who honors America every day of the year.

Thank you. God bless you always.

And now, I'm going to present Mrs. Dozier with a Golden Apple.

Note: The President spoke at 1:54 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.