DERRY — As the 2014 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, Joseph Lee recently joined other award recipients from across the country to visit the White House and meet the President.
For Lee, a popular social studies teacher at Pinkerton Academy, it was an incredible experience he will never forget.
He received the award as the Granite State’s Teacher of the Year from a selection committee at the start of the school year. Lee was given the award for his conviction to teaching, the energy he brings to the classroom and his philosophy of making every student better.
He was part a group of other winning teachers from across the country that met with representatives from the Department of Education. Over five days, he said the group brainstormed with the representatives on upcoming national educational initiatives. The representatives wanted feedback from the teachers and an analysis of current programs. They also wanted to know what the teachers felt was working and what wasn’t when it comes to education.
“So, I feel privileged to be able to speak on behalf of teachers from around our state in providing a voice of areas of concern in New Hampshire as well as things that we are doing well,” Lee said.
Lee said the Department of Education representatives wanted to know how policy is working and how initiatives are assisting, supporting or maybe even hurting teachers in New Hampshire and other states.
As for his visit to the White House and meeting the President, Lee said he was extremely impressed.
“I’d seen the White House from the outside, but to be able to be on the inside and get a behind-the-doors view of kind of how the White House functions on a daily basis was a neat experience for me,” Lee said.
He was so impressed by the office that he admitted he was “star struck” as he waited in line to meet the President.
Lee said he was about four people back from the President and was astounded as he looked around a room in the White House that was filled with historic paintings. Being a golf coach, he said he became somewhat distracted when he looked out a window and spotted the Eisenhower putting green.
He became so distracted at one point that a Secret Service agent came forward and politely asked him to move up.
“‘In kind of a nurturing way, he said ‘Sir, I’m going to have you take two steps forward,”’ Lee said. “He was asking me to close the gap.”
A few moments later, the agent stepped forward to again urge him along.
“I’m sure I looked like a kid in a candy store,” Lee said.
He eventually met the President, shaking his hand and chatting briefly with him.
Lee said it was definitely a welcoming conversation, adding that other teacher of the year winners from across the nation seemed to feel the same way.
“We were truly welcomed and our voice was heard as far as existing programs, national initiatives and concerns in the classroom.”