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Hopatcong Teacher: Obama Was 'So Genuine, So Sincere'

Danielle Kovach started to cry when she met the president at the White House on Tuesday. But he comforted her.

Few can say they've met the president. Even fewer can say they've been consoled by him.

Danielle Kovach can say both.

The Hopatcong teacher briefly met President Barack Obama on Tuesday in the Oval Office. It happened moments before Obama honored the nation's top teachers in the White House's Rose Garden.

Kovach said it was a never-forget moment.

"There are a few moments in my life I'll always remember," the Tulsa Trail third-grade special education teacher said. "Marrying my husband. Having my boys. And meeting the president of the United States."

Kovach, who was named New Jersey's Teacher of the Year in October, said she was overwhelmed with emotion when she stepped onto the Oval Office carpet. So she began to cry.

"No, don't cry," Kovach said Obama told her. "It's OK."

Kovach said she knew the enormity of the moment. There she was, representing all of New Jersey's teachers.

"I'm so sorry I'm crying now," Kovach said she told Obama. "I'm very honored to meet you."

Then Kovach wiped her eyes and the two spoke about Hopatcong and posed for a picture. Kovach said Obama praised her for her work with special-needs children.

"I was so touched by that," she said. "What he said was so genuine and so sincere."

Then it was onto the Rose Garden, so another state's "teacher of the year" could meet the commander-in-chief. There Kovach listened to Obama talk about how teachers affected his life.

"I am honored to welcome this group of outstanding teachers behind me to the White Hosue," the president said. "They are the best of the best, and even though we can never really thank teachers enough, today's a chance to offer them a small token of our appreciation for the difference they make in the lives of our children and in the future of our country."

"I still remember the special teachers that touched my life," Obama said. "We all do. We remember the way they challenged us, the way they made us feel, how they pushed us, the encouragement that they gave us, the values that they taught us the way they helped us to understand the world and to analyze it and to ask questions. They helped us become the people we are today."

Kovach said she didn't bring up Gov. Chris Christie to the president. Christie has spent most of his term battling teachers unions and school districts. Kovach said she didn't want to mar the day with negativity.

The moment highlighted Kovach's weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., which ends Friday. She also met Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, and hung out at the veep's house.

"It was, for me, to hear Obama speak so highly of teachers, it was very inspiring to hear the leader of our nation praise teachers on the work that they do," Kovach said. "I am just so very thankful they chose to honor us that day."

Maryland's Michelle M. Shearer, a chemistry teacher at Urbana High School, was given National Teacher of the Year honors.

Willa Scantlebury May 06, 2011 at 04:09 PM
My son was lucky enough to have Mrs. Kovach for 2 years while the school decided to try a "roll-over" class! She deserves every ounce of praise and recognition she receives. The President was lucky to meet her!

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