Philadelphia teacher LeShawna Coleman had some interesting lunch company Wednesday: President Obama.
Coleman, a 13-year Philadelphia School District veteran, teacher coach, and English as a Second Language teacher, had expected to travel to Washington for a U.S. Department of Education event about teacher equity. (The Education Department introduced a program Monday to get more strong teachers in the nation's poorest schools.)
But last week, she learned she was one of four teachers nationwide chosen to lunch with the president and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The other teachers came from schools in Arkansas, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia.
"The one ingredient that we know makes an enormous difference is a great teacher, and we have four of the best teachers in the country here," Obama said at the lunch, held in the White House Blue Room.
Coleman said Obama and Duncan were wowed when she described the project she has worked on for four years, in which top teachers help mentor, coach, and evaluate new and struggling colleagues.
"He was very impressed with the program," Coleman said of the president. "He said, 'We need to look into what we can do to replicate this around the country.' "
Coleman described the one-hour chat as easy and free-flowing. The leader of the free world seemed genuinely interested in hearing about the teachers' experiences, she said.
"He was really relaxed," Coleman said. "He wanted to know what we do, why we do it, and how we can encourage others to do the same thing."
Coleman, who began her career at Ada Lewis Middle School and who will return to the classroom in the fall as an itinerant ESL teacher, said she remains in Philadelphia as a teacher because it matters.
She grew up in the city, attended public schools, and came from a family with limited educational experiences, but who stressed the importance of school.
"It was important to me to make sure that kids receive a quality education from teachers who are committed to being in urban schools," Coleman said.
Oh, and the White House lunch? Very tasty, she said - arugula with watercress and watermelon, salmon with bean salad, peach cobbler with ginger ice cream, washed down by the White House's famous lemonade.
This article contains information from the White House pool report.