Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
2003 Teacher of the Year Award
April 18, 2003

Thank you, Mary Alice. Good afternoon everyone. I am honored to be here.

It has been said that “The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, and the great teacher inspires.” It is clear to me today that we are in the presence of greatness.

To all of the educators we honor here this afternoon—congratulations. And thank you for inspiring our children.

Great teachers are the soul of an enlightened society. We entrust in you the most precious thing we know in life—our children.

This is an act of faith. And I believe we have that faith because each of us knows that in our own lives, we owe much of who we are and what we’ve achieved to great teachers. We can all name a great teacher who changed our lives. A teacher who inspired us.

When I was in third grade, I had another kind of teacher. She used me as an example a lot. I was an example of how not to swing a bat, how not to spell. I dreaded school. I was haunted by thoughts that I was a bad student who would never measure up.

Then I got to 6th grade, and Mr. Grefton. Mr. Grefton encouraged me. He assigned me to write a report. And Mr. Grefton told me the report was so good that he wanted me to present it to other classes too.

But what he really conveyed to me was that I had worth. That I could learn. That I could achieve high goals.

Each of us has our own Mr. Gefton. And today’s honored teachers will be remembered by their students in the same way. Some day one of your students may be standing where I am today. And he or she will mention you.

Our Teacher of the Year this year, Veronique Paquette [Vair-o-neek Paw-ket] has a keen interest in space exploration. This interest has carried over in wonderfully innovative and effective ways into her teaching.

That is so fitting. Teachers are like astronauts. You explore the dark reaches and lead the way with the light of learning. You inspire hope and fire the imagination. You show us that our dreams can come true if we believe passionately and work hard.

You are asked to do so much. And we don’t give you enough recognition or pay you enough.

We want the best education system in America to be right here in Washington. And it all begins with quality teachers. It begins with you.

And it continues with you. Henry Adams once observed that a teacher affects eternity, because you can never tell where a teacher’s influence stops. Your influence goes on and on. The people you’ve helped and taught, pass the lessons along.

Teachers affect eternity. I believe that with all my heart. And so, with all my heart, I thank the teachers we honor today and the many more great teachers out there who quietly devote their lives to inspiring our children. Thank you, and God bless you.

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