BLUFFTON, Ind. (WANE) — Last October, Bluffton High School history teacher Tara Cocanower was named Indiana Teacher of the Year.
She knew that the culmination of that honor would be a trip to the White House, which recently happened.
From seeing the West Wing and the Rose Garden, to being in the same rooms where so many important world leaders and historical figures have stood. From the excitement of seeing historical artifacts and paintings, to speaking to the First Lady and Secretary of Education — Cocanower said it was all so surreal.
“It really was surreal,” Cocanower explained. “It’s hard to walk into the White House, to walk into the Rose Garden, to be celebrated for something that you go to do because you serve kids because they matter, right?”
Cocanower said that she and the other state’s representatives were asked questions and given a chance to voice their struggles and what they’re advocating for as teachers. Cocanower said she spoke about civics education — as that is one of her passions as a history teacher — and about students’ desire to learn more about their rights as American citizens.
Overall, she said a number of topics were covered. She joked that she was just thankful she didn’t become tongue-tied while speaking in front of Dr. Jill Biden.
“It’s hard for me to process it, but it was really just one of those moments where I was proud to be from Indiana. I’m proud to be a Hoosier, and it was humbling to be the representative,” she added.
Cocanower was the first ever teacher from Bluffton to win teacher of the year.
She and the other 50 teachers took a group photo with President Biden and the First Lady after listening to speeches from both.
Once the official copy of that picture arrives in the mail, she’ll be happy to hang it up in her classroom, she said. If she’s allowed to make copies, she’ll surely have one for her home as well.