Michelle Shearer began as a volunteer at the Maryland School for the deaf. She taught the first AP chemistry class in the school's 135 year history. She's now being honored for her accomplished. On Tuesday, Shearer was named 2011 national teacher of the year.
She now teaches at AP chemistry at Urbana High School. When she moved there in 2006, there were 11 students who took the class. Now, 92 are enrolled.
"They have to learn to be creative and they have to learn to be problem solvers," she said. "It's not just about paper and pencil tests."
During Tuesday's ceremony at the White House, she was praised by President Barack Obama.
"In the words of one of my favorite poets, William Butler Yates, education is not the filling of a pale but the lighting of a fire," the president said. "It takes a special person to light that fire, to raise our children's expectations for themselves, and never give up on them no matter how challenging it might be."
In the coming months, Shearer will take time off to travel the country, preaching a gospel of hope, creativity and shared responsibility.
A Princeton graduate, Shearer said people ask her why she couldn't do something better. Her parents said they always saw glimpses of greatness.
"We noticed very early on was that Michelle had an empathy with other children, kids who didn't get things as fast as she did," said her father Phil Meredith.
The best teachers from all the states attended Tuesday's announcement. In closing, the president remarked that we will only be as strong as the education we provide our children.
Maryland named her state teacher of the year in October.