President Obama speaks to students

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 11, 2009

St. John the Baptist Parish School District’s students attentively watched President Obama’s speech on Promethean Boards, via LCD projectors, on television monitors and on computer screens. The President’s message was met with positive reviews from administration, teachers and students.

Superintendent Courtney P. Millet encouraged the district’s teachers to show the President’s speech. In her weekly memo to principals, Millet wrote, “Considering the educational and historical context of this event, I want to encourage you to offer students in our district the opportunity to hear from America’s president as he reiterates a theme that is at the heart of their future success—working hard, setting educational goals, and taking responsibility for their own learning.”

Millet viewed the speech with a fourth-grade class at Emily C. Watkins Elementary. “I certainly liked the way he encouraged students to stay in school and do their best—that you become good at things through hard work,” stated Millet. She added that one of the fourth-grade students said he would like to have President Obama come and visit his new school—Emily C. Watkins.

Principal of Fifth Ward Elementary School, Kendria Spears, visited her third- through eighth-grade classes throughout the speech. Spears said, “It is important to show students the value of staying in school and getting a good education. I think it is important for the students to hear that the President faced some of the same obstacles many of our students are facing today.”

Kate Greisberger, FWE eighth-grade English language arts teacher said, “The President’s speech is a great opportunity for him to inspire and motivate the students. His final message—that he expects great things from them—can empower them. It lets them know that they are the writers of their own destiny.”

During a follow-up activity to the President’s speech, Greisberger’s students commented on what they felt was President Obama’s most important message. Caylan Williams said, “When he said that asking questions was not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength—I think it’s important because many people don’t ask questions because they are scared of being teased or embarrassed, but it is better to ask and find out instead of not knowing at all.”

Denisha Mitchell chose the statement, “If you let yourself down, you are letting your country down.’ Denisha said, “That means that the future depends on us to discover new things and to do things that affect the whole country in a good way.”

The superintendent informed the principals that if parents called or sent a note not wanting their child to watch the speech, the teacher should allow that student to read an Accelerated Reader book in the library (or another location designated by the principal) for the duration of the speech. In St. John’s public schools, less than a handful of parents opted out of viewing the speech.