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Obama on Teachers as 'Nation Builders'

In Tuesday's education-heavy state of the union address, President Obama gave repeated nods to teachers—and the critical role they'll play in rebuilding the U.S. economy.

In perhaps the most memorable moment for educators, he urged a communal effort to honor the teaching profession.

...[A]fter parents, the biggest impact on a child's success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as "nation builders." Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect.

The president also announced a push to prepare 100,000 new STEM educators over the next 10 years, to combat impending Baby Boomer retirements. And he put out a call for young idealists to join the teaching pool.

In fact, to every young person listening tonight who's contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child—become a teacher. Your country needs you.

In a line that been questioned, President Obama lauded the Race to the Top competition as "the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation," saying it has raised teaching and learning standards. The new standards, he said, "were developed, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country." (While the statement was meant to highlight that the federal government is seeking a balanced role in education, I'm sure many viewers were thinking that educators themselves should have a say in creating new teaching and learning standards as well.)

The president's comment about the need to "reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones" drew applause from the intermingled parties. But for some in the trenches, it likely invoked concerns about value-added scores and merit pay.

Though he didn't get into specifics, President Obama also said he intends to replace No Child Left Behind "with a law that is more flexible," and to see through the DREAM Act, which would give undocumented high school graduates a path to citizenship—initiatives many teachers are already backing.

Here at Teacher, we're curious: What were your takeaways from the speech? Did it make you proud to be an educator? Worried about the road to reform? Did the president hit the right education notes? Or did he miss the mark?

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