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Wisconsin Teachers of the Year Head to Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021
susan richardson erin mccarthy
Erin McCarthy, left, and Susan Richardson, right, stand in front of The White House in Washington, D.C.

A recent week-long trip to the nation’s capital wasn’t only a long time coming for Wisconsin teachers Erin McCarthy and Susan Richardson. It was a priceless experience where the two collaborated and learned alongside educators from across the country.

McCarthy and Richardson were honored alongside counterparts from other states and territories for being named National Teacher of the Year representatives on the trip to Washington, D.C. The two teachers were slated to be honored in recent years, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the celebration.

“It was such an invaluable experience,” McCarthy, an eighth grade social studies teacher at Greendale Middle School and the 2020 Wisconsin Middle School Teacher of the Year, said. “Being surrounded by 57 others from other states and territories...they think in such innovative ways. They are so dedicated to education and what is best for their students.”

Richardson, a third grade teacher at Milwaukee German Immersion School and 2021 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, said the week-long experience was one she will never forget.

“I really cherished spending time with the other ToYs (Teachers of the Year) from other states and territories, there were so many incredibly inspiring people,” Richardson said. “It’s contagious -- you feed off of each other. Once you close your classroom door, you’re pretty don’t really get to observe others and you can kind of slip into a rut of, ‘This is how I know how to do it.’ So, to collaborate and glean from so many others, it was so valuable.”

teachers of the year
The National Teachers of the Year stand in front of The White House with President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

In addition to hearing from various speakers, attending trainings, and taking part in professional development opportunities organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers, McCarthy and Richardson were recognized in a special ceremony on the South Lawn of The White House by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, and various others. The event concluded with a visit and surprise remarks from a very special guest: President Joe Biden.

“They told us all along (President Biden) couldn’t commit, but we started to suspect he may show up,” Richardson said. “We gasped as he ran up and introduced himself, and we erupted in applause. He was very personable and went off the script telling jokes and having other comments.”

Later in the week, McCarthy and Richardson had an opportunity to meet with Wisconsin Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson, and Reps. Gwen Moore and Scott Fitzgerald, and were set up by Google to have an experience around the city, such as a Segway or museum tour. Next, the National Teacher of the Year representatives are invited to attend the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship in January in Indianapolis.

In all, McCarthy and Richardson said they both used the trip as a chance to learn and implement new strategies moving forward.

“This was totally worth doing,” McCarthy said. “Celebrating teachers and the impact they have on their students has been something that sometimes gets lost, but is something that should consistently be done.”