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Kansas Teacher of the Year, team members visit White House

Kansas Teacher of the Year, team members visit White House

Four Kansas educators featured in Jill Biden’s social media post

“Joe and I were thrilled to welcome educators, students and families to the White House to celebrate the start of a new school year – one filled with possibility and discovery,” first lady Jill Biden posted Aug. 26 on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter. 

Right below, one of four photographs featured Brian Skinner, the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year, alongside Jessica Gazzano, Mallory Keefe and Carly Torres, three members of the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year team. 

“I was pretty pleased that out of what I’m sure was thousands of pictures taken, one of the four she posted about represented Kansas,” Skinner said after returning from a trip to Washington, D.C., to take part in a back-to-school celebration at the White House. 

Skinner was invited to the White House for the second time as a State Teacher of the Year. The first time he was invited was in April for the National Teacher of the Year Program Washington Week, an event hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers that honored all 2023 State Teachers of the Year. 

All 2023 State Teachers of the Year were invited to attend the latest White House event to recognize back-to-school time. 

“It’s very short notice, so I know most aren’t able to attend,” Skinner said about the other State Teachers of the Year before departing for Washington, D.C., on Friday, Aug. 25. 

Because not all State Teachers of the Year could attend, Skinner invited a colleague to go with him. He sent an invitation to the seven educators on the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team, thinking that he would be lucky if even one would be able to attend because of timing. 

Three responded with, “Yes!” 

That put Skinner in a bind, but he quickly checked to see if he could get more than one ticket. There were enough tickets available, so he told Gazzano, Keefe and Torres to pack their bags because they were headed to Washington, D.C. 

“They are super excited,” Skinner said. “I don’t think any of them have been to D.C. before. I can’t believe I’m getting a chance to go back to the White House. It’s a chance to represent public education on a national scale. I have worked really hard to take every opportunity to represent students of Kansas on whatever larger scale I can.” 

“What an honor,” Torres wrote on her Facebook page about the trip. “Today was something I never imagined I would get to do! So thankful I got to share it with half my KTOY fam!” 

Gazzano commented on her Facebook page that one of the trip's highlights was seeing a photograph hanging in the White House of newlyweds Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and Capt. Charles S. Robb. They were married Dec. 9, 1967, in the East Room of the White House. The bride’s parents? Then-President Lyndon B. Johnson and first lady Lady Bird Johnson. 

“My husband’s grandmother made this dress by hand for President Johnson’s daughter,” Gazzano said. “Artists have many different talents that can be used in many different careers.” 

Keefe posted: “When you get an invitation (six days before the event) to visit the White House for a back-to-school bash, you have to go. … Truly some of the most pleasant days I’ve ever had. So thankful for the opportunities KTOY has given me …” 

The event's purpose was to highlight educators, the profession and provide educators and families an opportunity to share their hopes for the upcoming school year, Skinner said. 

After the celebration on Saturday at the White House, the Bidens visited Eliot-Hine Middle School, located east of the U.S. Capitol, to mark the District of Columbia’s first day of school for the 2023-2024 school year. 

“It was wonderful being able to support and represent my profession,” Skinner said. “But it was just as great to go alongside so many of my friends from Kansas and around the country. When we work together, we do better.” 

Posted: Aug 31, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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