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Barack Obama honors three CPS teachers with special video call for National Teacher Appreciation Week

“I don’t mind being on the front lines for the kids because I’m this is what I’m really passionate about doing,” one teacher told the former president.

Former President Barack Obama on video call
Former President Barack Obama greets surprised CPS teachers during video calls in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week.

No one’s had it easy during the coronavirus pandemic, least of all Chicago Public Schools teachers who had to switch to remote learning with very little preparation.

So in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, Barack Obama reached out to some CPS teachers to give them a virtual pat on the back for their hard work.

In a video posted to Twitter from the former president’s official account, Obama praised three teachers and listened to their stories and the unusual challenges they’re facing now.

Katie Owens, who teaches second grade at Joseph Kellman Elementary School in Lawndale, told Obama that it was her mother who told her she would be a teacher: “I think she recognized something maybe I didn’t see in myself.”

Jalayne Brewton, a teacher at Parkside Academy in South Shore — Michelle Obama’s home neighborhood — said her school was her outlet growing up and she wanted to give back to those who had helped her. When the pandemic first hit, she volunteered to pass out Chromebooks to students.

“We passed out over 147 devices,” Brewton said. “I don’t mind being on the front lines for the kids because I’m this is what I’m really passionate about doing.”

Now that classes are being held remotely, Daniel Michmerhuizen, a civics and U.S. history teacher at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen, said he still holds hour-long sessions just as he normally would.

“I’m trying to replicate our class because our class is so powerful in the interaction,” Michmerhuzen told Obama.

“If I ever get too down and out, I’m gonna have to tune into you so that I can get geared back up,” Obama replied.

And for those wondering, yes: Obama is watching “The Last Dance.”

“I’m on a nostalgia trip back there,” he said to Owens, who is also watching the ESPN documentary on the Chicago Bulls’ six NBA championships in the 1990s.