Biden pays tribute to educator teaching students about ‘race, gender and oppression’ amid classroom culture wars
President and First Lady Jill Biden honored Kurt Russell, the veteran educator at Oberlin High School, named Teacher of the Year by the nonprofit Council of State School Principals, during a ceremony at the White House for State and National Teachers of the Year.
Russell teaches electives on African American history as well as race, gender, and oppression. He is also a college basketball coach and faculty advisor for the school’s Black Student Union.
The choice comes as nationwide conservative-led efforts have made successful progress over the past year to stifle discussions of race, gender and sexual identity in the classroom.
At the ceremony in Washington, the president took aim at conservatives for making educators a target of the culture wars.
“Teaching is one of the toughest jobs in this country,” Biden said. “Today there are too many politicians trying to score political points by trying to ban books – even math books. I mean, did you ever think…that when you teach, you you would care about the books being burned and the ban All because it doesn’t fit on anyone’s political agenda American teachers have dedicated their lives to teaching our children and raising them We need to stop make it a target of culture wars.
Russell said at the ceremony that representation in classes is key to providing a well-rounded learning environment.
“Students need to see themselves in the classroom and the program in order to empower and engage,” he said. “That’s why I’ve created classes that make students feel valued. Classes that deal with women’s rights, gay rights, and also an inquiry into black history. It’s important that my students see themselves as I see them – with unlimited potential and full of gifts.”
“I am truly blessed to be part of a profession that transforms and legitimizes student voices and lays the foundation for a more culturally responsive education,” he added.
Conservative-led efforts targeting schools, children, parents and teachers
Florida’s efforts have particularly touched the nerve of the Biden administration.
The measures are part of a broader Conservative effort to make it harder for transgender and non-binary Americans to receive gender-affirming health care, play sports, or change their birth certificates and other identifying documents. to match their gender identity. LGBTQ advocates say allowing people to use non-binary gender markers can reduce the risk of harassment and discrimination they face when their perceived physical appearance doesn’t match the genders on their identity documents.
Teachers under pressure
American teachers, advocates say, are still under immense pressure from the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic.
When adjusted for inflation, American teachers take home $2,179 less a year, on average, than they did a decade ago, the NEA report says.
At Wednesday’s ceremony at the White House, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona acknowledged that “teachers are being asked to do more and more” and highlighted the Biden administration’s calls for higher salaries. higher, development opportunities, more support staff and better working conditions.
“We need more teachers,” first lady Jill Biden, a teacher herself, told the crowd. “I can’t promise it will be easy work, can I? But I can promise it will fill your life with meaning, purpose and joy.”
This story was updated with additional developments on Wednesday.
CNN’s Chris Boyette, Paul LeBlanc, Andy Rose, Tina Burnside, Zoe Sottile, Nicole Chavez and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.