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2008 National Teacher of the Year: Mr. Bush, meet Mr. Geisen

by: ROCKY MINER - Crook County Middle School science teacher Mike Geisen thanked his students and family in his remarks at the White House on Wednesday morning.

In a pleasant spring day at the White House and with his trademark quips in play, Crook County Middle School seventh-grade science teacher Mike Geisen spoke of the honor of being chosen as the 2008 National Teacher of the Year Wednesday.
   Turning to President George W. Bush, Geisen said, "I like what you've done with the place."
   In the biggest education news to hit Oregon in more than three decades, Geisen was joined at the White House Wednesday by CCMS Principal Rocky Miner, Superintendent Steve Swisher, Geisen's parents and his own family, Oregon Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo, Congressman Greg Walden, Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Gordon Smith, and others.
   "This is our real challenge, is to educate the entire child...."
   In his remarks, Geisen said that each teacher present at the White House ceremony "is here today because of their commitment and their courage to live in light of this fact: Children are fully human beings."
   "They're not conglomerations of hormones, they're not animals to be trained, they're not just numbers to be measured or future commodities to produce," the seventh-grade science teacher said. "They are our equals. They're the here and the now. And they are beautiful."
   "I'm greatly humbled to be standing here today," he said. "There is no one person in America that is the best teacher, and I certainly don't claim to be that. There are many, many different ways to capture the hearts and minds of our children, and my way is just one among many successful ways to do that."
   Also being recognized were the 2008 National Teacher of the Year finalists, Lewis Chappalear of California, June Teisan of Michigan, and Tommy Smigiel of Virginia.
   "Mr. President, on behalf of the seven previous National Teachers - Michele Forman, Chauncey Veatch, Betsy Rogers, Kathy Mellow, Jason Kamras, Kim Oliver and Andrea Peterson, and their 385 Teacher of the Year colleagues, and for me and my 55 colleagues here today - thank you for taking the time in each one of your years of your administration to honor America's Teachers of the Year," Geisen said. "We really appreciate it. By doing so, he's honoring not just teachers but he's honoring America's children. And it is the children that really make life beautiful."
   What makes good teachers
   "Good teachers hear a call," Bush said. "Good teachers are empathetic souls. And really the best teachers have a special intuition - and I suspect a little potential - the ability to see potential and the ability to have the patience necessary to watch it grow. I want to thank you for nurturing young minds. I thank you for providing such wonderful examples. And I thank you for inspiring the imaginations and unleashing the talents of our nation's young."
   Bush went on to say, "Great teachers like Mike are optimists who believe in setting high standards," Bush said. "He believes that every child can learn if given a chance. And so when he became head of the science department, he created assessments for the students and he put a system in place to measure results."
   Bush also added that Geisen created family-oriented school projects that would involve mothers and fathers in their children's work.
   "One of his signature achievements is the annual science fair where the students create everything from electric cars to electric hotdog cookers," the president said. "The fair culminates with what Mike calls a 'legendary evening of science, creativity, food and wackiness.' It's not what a lot of people think of as a science class, to be frank with you, but nevertheless it's a reason he's the Teacher of the Year. He's found innovative ways to use his innate humor and creativity to encourage students to take science seriously - and we need a lot of scientists in America."