WASHINGTON – Susan Bumgarner found out Friday that she was invited to be one of Michelle Obama’s official guests at the State of the Union address. The invitation came in a phone call from a White House staff person.
Tuesday night at the Capitol,the early childhood educator sat among Apple CEO Tim Cook,Jill Biden,soldiers,a Hurricane Sandy hero,a 16-year-old science whiz from Baltimore and Bobak Ferdowski,who designed the landing mechanism for NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity.
Bumgarner teaches preschool at Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School in Oklahoma City and has been a teacher in the Oklahoma school system for more than 20 years.
“I was very thrilled to meet the first lady and then surprised and thrilled when we got to meet the president afterward. That was incredible,” Bumgarner said in an interview Wednesday.
The preschool children at the elementary school take classes in drama,music and visual arts to help develop their creative learning skills. The teachers coordinate what the students are learning in their art classes so they can apply it to their writing and mathematics lessons.
Kirk Wilson,in his second year as principal at the school,said young children who learn creatively now will be more competitive in the job market of the future.
“Employers don’t want someone who has to go look up their answers in a dictionary or choose from ‘A,’ ‘B,’ or ‘C.’ They want you to think outside the box,” Wilson said. “They want you to be creative and have critical thinking and problem solving.”
President Barack Obama mentioned in his speech that both Georgia and Oklahoma make educating children a priority. He proposed making preschool available to every child in the U.S. “I was thrilled about the president’s plan for universal pre-K everywhere and I hope they’re able to do that,” Bumgarner said.
Bumgarner is participating in an annual Partners in Education conference this week and is scheduled to represent teachers on a panel called “Sharing Progress: moving ahead in developing arts integration schools” Saturday before returning to Oklahoma.
Obama spoke about education Thursday in Decatur,Ga.,to emphasize his pre-K proposal.
Reach reporter Amy Slanchik at [email protected] or 202-326-9865. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.
Amy Slanchik also reports for “OU Nightly,” a production of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication,at the University of Oklahoma.