Hollis, NH teacher Nancy Kring-Burns invited to White House Teacher Appreciation

HOLLIS – Nancy Kring-Burns, who teaches fifth grade at Hollis Upper Elementary School, says she was honored to be invited to the White House for a teacher appreciation social on May 7. She was the only guest from New Hampshire and the only special education teacher in the group of 20 educators from around the country who got to meet with Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“I saw something on Twitter from Dr. Biden’s office to come to the White House, so I applied,” she explained. “There were two questions, but I forget what they were. I didn’t think they’d ever pick me.”

More than 1,000 teachers applied, but after being chosen, Kring-Burns almost missed the chance to go. When Dr. Biden’s office responded that she had been selected, it was April vacation week, and she didn’t see the email until Friday saying she needed to complete a security form promptly. She scrambled to meet the deadline, and less than two weeks later, flew to Washington, D.C., for the day at her own expense.

While there, she got to interact with educators from a variety of backgrounds, ages and experiences as well as Duncan and Biden.

“I am not a jargon type of person,” she said, “so I just spoke about who my students are and the types of things we do. It was a fun day listening to what teachers had to say, and they really listened to what we said.”

Kring-Burns said Duncan spoke about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs, maker spaces and new initiatives.

“We have to realize that education is an investment, not an expense,” she said of Duncan’s talk.

She said she is excited because she uses the maker space concept in her classroom at HUES and is planning on running a similar summer program at the library.

“Maker spaces give the opportunity for creativity through open-ended blocks of time. You provide children with materials, even junk, and they put things together to create whatever moves them,” she said. “As their skills improve and thought processes grow, they have the opportunity to use their creativity. I am excited because I am going to test this out in June.”

The honorees got to meet the White House pastry chef, who provided them with a boxed lunch of sandwiches, chips, cookies, apples and water. They ate in Vice President Joe Biden’s office, where Jill Biden graciously posed for individual photographs. Dr. Biden also presented the teachers with a signed blank journal, a bookmark and a box of presidential M&Ms, which Kring-Burns anticipates sharing with her students on the last day of school.

Although they did not get to meet the president directly, the teachers did get a glimpse of him when he arrived at the White House by helicopter.

“It was incredible just to get on the property grounds, but we got to watch the helicopter land,” Kring-Burns said. “We saw the pomp and circumstance of how they open the doors, then Barack Obama walked by. It was very cool.”

In response to one teacher’s question about Michelle Obama’s Get Moving program, the group was treated to an unscheduled tour of the First Lady’s vegetable garden at the end of the program.

“I haven’t been around so many people so excited about education,” Kring-Burns said. “Teachers usually don’t get invited to the White House or the vice president’s office. The biggest takeaway for me is that this was validation of what we do.”