Samford University graduate Betsy Rogers, a teacher at Leeds Elementary School near Birmingham, has been named National Teacher of the Year. She was honored by President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony Wednesday, April 30.
Rogers holds four degrees from Samford's Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies. She began teaching in 1974 after earning her B.S. in Education degree. She added graduate degrees in 1998, 2000 and 2002.
She is a third-generation Samford student. Her grandmother and mother both attended the school when it was Howard College in East Lake.
A first- and second-grade teacher, Rogers has been at Leeds Elementary since the mid-1980s. Her selection as Teacher of the Year will put her on a national and international speaking tour representing her profession for the next year.
"My whole issue is equity in education," she told The Birmingham News. "I really wish we had a country where there was no need for legislation because we would take care of all our children. It's unthinkable some children would not have the best facilities and a nurturing, safe environment. My message is all children should have a quality education."
Rogers' ability to reach all students, regardless of family situation or economic status, is one of her strong points.
"She is very interested in youngsters who come from impoverished backgrounds and working with children that grew up in poverty," said Dr. Maurice Persall, director of graduate programs at Samford. "She is dedicated to finding better ways to do that."
Rogers took time off from teaching to raise two sons during the late 1970s and early '80s. When she returned to teaching, she said, "The poverty, neglect and abuse that many of my students experienced overwhelmed me. I wanted to change the world for them."
Rogers said she committed to making her classroom "a haven of safety as well as an environment that provided some joy to their unfortunate lives."
Even though she will take a year off from teaching, Rogers plans to return to her classroom as soon as possible.
"The students are my reward and joy," she said. "I never imagined I would be recognized for something I love doing every day."