A 20-year veteran of Vancouver schools is representing Washington teachers in the other Washington this week.
Mark Ray, the 2011 state teacher of the year and a librarian/media specialist at Skyview High School, was one of 53 teachers recognized in a White House ceremony Tuesday.
President Barack Obama honored Burbank, Calif., teacher Rebecca Mieliwocki as the 2012 National Teacher of the Year during the ceremony. Mieliwocki is a seventh-grade English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School.
Behind the president and Mieliwocki stood more than 50 teachers from around the country. And each got to shake the president’s hand.
“It’s been a pretty heady 36 hours,” Ray told The Columbian by phone on Tuesday. “We teachers don’t often get such an opportunity.”
Ray arrived in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. He spent much of Sunday being filmed along with the other state teachers of the year, he said.
On Monday, a police escort whisked Ray and his colleagues to the U.S. Naval Observatory. The observatory grounds hold the residence of the vice president. The teachers spent 1 hours with Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, Ray said.
He described the interaction with Biden as “heartfelt.” Biden has been an educator for more than 30 years and still teaches English at a community college in Virginia.
On Tuesday, the teachers gathered at the White House for the big ceremony. After speeches by Obama and Mieliwocki, the president’s helicopter landed on the White House lawn and took Obama away, while Ray and others watched.
“It was a pretty exciting morning,” Ray said.
The teachers continued to sightsee and take pictures at the White House for a long time, until staff let them know it was time to go.
“They finally kicked us out,” Ray quipped. “I think they were getting ready to let the dogs loose.”
Member of the league
He said it “felt great” to be with the other teachers from around the country, comparing their group to a “league of brothers and sisters” that shared a common bond.
Although the glamorous moments are done with for his weeklong stay, Ray isn’t coming home yet. He’ll be an ambassador for Vancouver schools for the next few days.
On Thursday, many of the teachers are visiting the Department of Education for a roundtable discussion.
Ray will use that opportunity to meet with administrators from the League of Innovative Schools. The Vancouver school district is one of a few dozen around the country to be chosen for the group of districts that use technology effectively in the classroom.
Ray in part won his state teacher title on the strength of the technology training he provides to fellow teachers in his district.
“I want to strengthen those connections (with the innovative schools program),” he said.
He’s scheduled to meet with Washington’s two senators Friday to advocate for school libraries, he said.
Ray’s leaving Saturday after an action-packed week.
His and the other teachers’ traveling expenses were covered by corporate sponsors for the Teacher of the Year program, he said.