GRANITE FALLS, Wash. – For only the third time ever, a teacher from Washington state has been inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame.
Debra Howell has seen a lot in 26 years of teaching: countless school assemblies at Monte Cristo Elementary, inspiring performances by the school choir, students who struggle and students who succeed beyond their wildest dreams.
As she readied her students for yet another assembly, the last thing she was expecting was the man at the podium calling her name Tuesday.
"Debra Howell? Please consider this official notification of your selection as an inductee into the National Teacher Hall of Fame for 2011."
Howell was surprised but humbled.
"This is a great community. There is nowhere else in the world I would rather teach," she said.
After a lot of hugs from students past and present, Howell was back in the classroom as she and her students got back to work. Howell has a knack for knowing how to keep her kids interested and invested.
"They know that I check up on them. I told them I want them to come talk to me when things are not good, as well as when they are good, and they do," Howell said.
It is that genuine respect that carries on in every kid who crosses her path – a respect that, in the end, benefits everyone.
"She's a great teacher. I love coming to school working with her, talking with her, I ask her how her spring break is, winter," said sixth grader Chase Alt.
Howell joins four other Hall of Fame inductees from Indiana, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia.