OREGON — High school Spanish teacher Kimberly Radostits once again represented the Oregon Community Unit School District at a national event, but this time she wasn’t the only person doing so.
Oregon Junior-Senior High School Assistant Principal Shannon Cremeens and OJSHS seniors Marcus Gilberto and Nora Hammer accompanied Radostits as her “plus-three” to an Aug. 26 back-to-school event at the White House. Gilberto and Hammer are aspiring teachers.
“It was fantastic,” Radostits said of the trip. “The ability to see Washington, D.C., through the eyes of students was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I couldn’t be more grateful for that chance.”
Invitations to the private event were extended to the outgoing state teachers of the year, who were allowed to bring a few guests from their community, said Radostits, the 2022 Illinois Teacher of the Year.
Radostits was named one of five finalists for the 2023 National Teacher of the Year on Jan. 25, but the title ultimately went to Rebecka Peterson, a high school math teacher from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Other educators at the White House event included members of the American Federation of Teachers and of the National Education Association, Radostits said.
“Getting to talk to all the teachers was a great experience,” said Gilberto, who wants to teach history. “I learned that it is not super easy to be a history teacher because of how many of them there are.”
Overall, about 50 people were at the event, which included tours of the White House and a chance for guests to share why they’re optimistic about the 2023-24 school year, Radostits said. Those reasons were featured in a new East Wing installation that’s part of the public tour route of the White House, she said.
The four of them went on a three-hour monuments-by-night tour after the White House event, Radostits said. They visited the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, she said.
“It was really sick [and] really pretty,” Gilberto said of the tour.
On the morning of Aug. 27, they visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Radostits said.
“It was a whirlwind of 30 hours,” she said. “We got a lot packed in in such a short period of time.”