Heritage teacher meets president

Heritage Middle School teacher Jeremy Wagner got to speak with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office last week.

It’s just one of the perks of being the Texas Teacher of the Year.

Wagner said when he was lined up waiting for his turn to speak with the president, he was telling himself to get a good look around the Oval Office because he had never seen it before. Unfortunately, he got a bit caught up in the moment.

“It was like I tunnel-visioned,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the Oval Office.”

The eighth-grade science teacher said the president thanked him for working with children and helping to improve their futures. He said he told the president that he enjoys his job because he knows he is making a difference.

Wagner also brought a message for Obama from his students: “Hi.”

The president told him to return the greeting from him.

Wagner and the president did get a photo opportunity, but he said he was told he would receive that photo in about three weeks.

He also will receive a special picture frame for the picture, courtesy of ING U.S.

It was during a ceremony in the Rose Garden that the Associated Press Twitter account was hacked, Wagner said. A tweet from the hackers said, “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.”

Wagner said he did not know about the hacked tweet until much later in the day, but he said all of the teachers were very aware of the fact that there had been a terror attack in Boston just the week before.

“I think we all had a realistic mind about it,” Wagner said. But he said his observation of the White House and security in Washington was everything ran very smoothly, but security was obviously a concern for everyone. In the Oval Office, he said Secret Service agents hovered on the outskirts, while representatives from each branch of the military were present.

On a visit to meet Jill Biden in the vice president’s home, Wagner said, “We went through three security checkpoints just to get into her house.”

His wife and fellow HMS teacher, Emily Wagner, accompanied him. She was present in the Rose Garden as Obama spoke about education in front of a lineup of the top state teachers, and also accompanied him to a black-tie event one night.

“That was the first time I’ve worn a tuxedo since my wedding day,” Wagner said with a laugh.

Wagner said his weeklong visit to Washington, D.C., included some sightseeing opportunities, but he said he spent a lot of time in conferences and meetings with the other top state teachers and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Teachers learned a lot about Duncan’s RESPECT initiative, or Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching, Wagner said.

He wasn’t chosen as the National Teacher of the Year, but Wagner said he is somewhat relieved.

“A part of me is glad that I didn’t get it,” Wagner said. “Basically, the Teacher of the Year is going to be extremely busy for the next year.”

Wagner said that would mean a lot of time away from his family, and he can still get a lot done as the Texas Teacher of the Year.

His boss, HMS Principal Greg Hernandez, said he has enjoyed seeing Wagner go through the experience of being the state Teacher of the Year.

“He still has not lost sight of the fact that he is still a teacher here at HMS,” Hernandez said. “It would be really easy, in my opinion, for him to get caught up in that. But the one thing he wants is for his students to be successful.”

Hernandez said students at the school have been excited for Wagner.

“Going to his classes, I think they realized he’s one of the best they’ll have in a lifetime,” Hernandez said. But he said one student told him that he was honored to be in Wagner’s class and appreciated that there were a lot of good teachers at HMS.

“Mr. Wagner will be the first to tell you,” Hernandez said. “There are lots of great teachers that are well deserving at Frenship ISD.”

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