There is no endeavor more important to maintaining a democracy than the education of our children, said Chauncy Veatch, 2002 National Teacher of the Year.
Veatch received the award, which was created to honor educators who teach K-12, after only seven years as an educator. He spoke before a small panel during a live broadcast in Ball State's WIPB-TV studios Wednesday.
"What's important about the Teacher of the Year program is that it gives a chance to remember why we are teachers," Veatch said.
Veatch credits his success to his respect for students. He intentionally works with troubled students, selecting them specifically for his classes.
"I respect them, I love them and I try to give them the academic tools for success because I believe in them."
Veatch teaches in Thermal, Calif., located in the southeast area of the state, and all of his students are Latino-Hispanic.
Leach views the diversity of his students as more of an asset than a road block.
After learning fluent Spanish in order to be a better teacher, he now teaches English as a second language to migrant workers. As a result, his classes have become highly popular, despite the fact that many of the students who attend sleep outside on the unpaved streets.
"The most beautiful English I ever hear is English with an accent," Veatch said.
One teaching style Veatch advocated was using a child's name in order to "bring out the drama and passion that's a part of history."
His example was using Hector, a common name in his classes, to introduce students to Homer's "Illiad." Through this introduction, students would then be able to learn about democracy, architecture and drama.
Veatch encourages students interested in becoming teachers to get involved in their communities and pursue leadership opportunities.
"Time is more precious than money, and how you spend it is how people know who you are," Veatch said.
The honoree also addressed young teachers, encouraging them to be themselves and to build on their own favorite subject in order to teach their students.
"Every teacher has a gift, and every teacher can still approach the standards the state provides," Veatch said. "Don't try to hit a home run every day.
"Getting to a base is a huge achievement."