NAfME President Nancy Ditmer Discusses Rose Garden Event Honoring the National Teacher of the Year

NAfME President Nancy E. Ditmer at the White House  before the Rose Garden ceremony.


As a teenager, Nancy E. Ditmer visited the White House with her grandmother. On April 23, her first visit time since that 1960s trip, she attended attend a Rose Garden ceremony in which President Barack Obama recognized 2013 National Teacher of the Year (NTOY). Ditmer is president of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) named Jeff Charbonneau, a 9–12th grade chemistry, physics and engineering teacher in Washington State, as 2013 National Teacher of the Year (NTOY).

Music educator Heidi Welch, New Hampshire State Teacher of the Year, was one of four NTOY finalists. She is a 9–12 grade music teacher at Hillsboro-Deering High School in Hillsboro, New Hampshire,  An NAfME member, she is also a member of the New Hampshire Music Educators Association. Welch is participating in a series of NTOY events in Washington, DC this week.

During the ceremony honoring the teachers from each state, Welch was standing on the front row, behind Obama, who said:

“[Teachers] understand that their job is more than teaching subjects like reading or chemistry. They’re not just filling blackboards with numbers and diagrams. In classrooms across America, they’re teaching things like character and compassion and resilience and imagination. They’re filling young minds with virtues and values, and teaching our kids how to cooperate and overcome obstacles.”

President Barack Obama  praises teachers visiting the White House, including Heidi Welch, left of the president, center of the front row.

Attending in support of Welch, Ditmer and NAfME Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Michael A. Butera arrived at the White House early to navigate through security and secure seats near the front.

“I have never actually seen a sitting person in president in person and just to have the opportunity to be there was amazing. We were sitting about 15 to 20 feet, from Obama. It was very surreal.”

She said the thing that impressed her was the “classy” way in which the ceremony, which included an introductions for each teacher who walked from the Gold Room of the White House into the Rose Garden. “Each person had the spotlight and once they came out, Heidi was right in front, which was nice to see.”

Ditmer said she was close enough to see Obama’s teleprompter and she noticed that he often changed his speech slightly to make it a little less stiff. “He said ‘kids’ rather than students at one point,” she said. She also liked the banter between Obama and the teachers. At one point Obama said “tell your students the president said they’re not allowed to be slackers at school,” as he talked to one teacher.

Ditmer said attending the ceremony was very special for her.

“I am so proud to be represented by New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, Heidi Welch. She is a versatile music educator who is an outstanding music educator who has overcome incredibly difficult circumstances in her own life. She credits her success to the care and love shown by numbers of her own teachers.  It is so important that music, art, and literature are represented among the Teachers of the Year, and it was evident at the Rose Garden ceremony that these subjects are important to many people, both inside and outside of our profession.

“When President Obama talked about the importance of these subjects in students’ development of creativity and critical thinking, the applause was the strongest that we heard during the ceremony.  It was clear that the crowd of people in attendance agree wholeheartedly that education must go beyond math and science if we are to wholly educate the children and youth of our nation.

“It was an honor and a privilege to be at the ceremony to support and celebrate Heidi, who was one of the four finalists for National Teacher of the Year.  She is an inspirational teacher and a role model for all in our profession,” Ditmer said.

The National Teacher of the Year (NTOY) Program began in 1952 and it is the oldest, most prestigious national honors program that focuses public attention on excellence in teaching. It is administered by the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, DC.

Participation in the NTOY program takes place through the State Teacher of the Year Program. Each year the 50 states, five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity name a state teacher of the year. Within the states the selection processes vary, but each state conducts a rigorous selection procedure in validating the State Teacher of the Year’s abilities in the classroom and in communicating the recipient’s message to a broad audience.

Visit  the NafME news page the week of April 29, 2013 for an interview with Welch.

April 23, 2013 story

View the National Teacher of the Year Rose Garden ceremony

 Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, April 25, 2013. © National Association for Music Education (