Mitchell teacher meets the president at White House eventPat Moller, South Dakota's Teacher of the Year, gets brief conversation with Obama and is honored during ceremony
By: Chris Huber, The Daily Republic
South Dakota Teacher of the Year Pat Moller, of Mitchell, met President Barack Obama on Tuesday at the White House along with the Teachers of the Year from other states for a reception and teacher appreciation event.
“You don’t really plan to be shaking hands with the president when you start your career,” said Moller, who teaches math at Mitchell Middle School. “It’s amazing.”
Moller spoke with The Daily Republic by phone from inside the White House after the program and said each teacher had around 30 seconds to talk with the president.
“It was pretty short but very humbling,” Moller said. “He said he liked to hear that I taught math and that we need more math teachers.
“Then I asked him if he remembered the Corn Palace, and he did.”
The president gave a campaign speech in front of the Corn Palace before the South Dakota primary election in 2008.
Moller was told he’ll be e-mailed a picture of himself with the president. In a photo captured by The Associated Press during the event, Obama is seen pointing directly at a laughing Moller. The Mitchell teacher said the president warned him against using “bunny ears” during the group photo of Obama and the teachers, and Moller, who was standing directly behind the president, deadpanned “don’t be too sure.”
Moller said it’s been quite a ride since he was named the Mitchell School District’s Teacher of the Year last May and South Dakota’s Teacher of the Year in October.
“I know I am probably not the best teacher in South Dakota, but I think I demonstrate the qualities we look for in good teachers,” he said. “The fact that I am here today is just really a great testament to the quality education we give in South Dakota.”
After meeting the president, Moller said each teacher was announced by state before the president gave a speech thanking them for their hard work and dedication.
National Teacher of the Year winner Rebecca Mieliwocki, a middle school teacher from Burbank Calif., also gave a speech.
Mieliwocki said of the honor, “I am not the best teacher in America. There isn’t just one.”