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October 15th, 2009
02:30 PM ET

The Teacher as Leader

The Obamas enjoy their new family dog, Bo, at the White House.

The Obamas enjoy their new family dog, Bo, at the White House.

Michelle Obama
For U.S. News & World Report

This is a busy time of year in the Obama household. Like so many parents all across this country, I watch with a mixture of pride and anxiety as my daughters stuff their backpacks, kiss me goodbye, and move ahead in another school year without so much as a backwards glance.

My girls are now making new friends, tackling challenging new subjects, and moving closer to becoming the strong, confident women I know they can be. But when I see them come home, bursting with excitement about something they have learned or someone they have met, I can't help but think that some of the most influential people in my daughters' lives won't be the ones they socialize with on the playground or read about in the pages of a book—they will be the people who stand up every day in front of their classrooms.

We all remember the impact a special teacher had on us—a teacher who refused to let us fall through the cracks; who pushed us and believed in us when we doubted ourselves; who sparked in us a lifelong curiosity and passion for learning. Decades later, we remember the way they made us feel and the things they inspired us to do—how they challenged us and changed our lives. So it's not surprising that studies show that the single most important factor affecting students' achievement is the caliber of their teachers. And when we think about the qualities that make an outstanding teacher—boundless energy and endless patience; vision and a sense of purpose; the creativity to help us see the world in a different way; commitment to helping us discover and fulfill our potential—we realize: These are also the qualities of a great leader.

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Filed under: Michelle Obama • Women's Issues
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