AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera accompanied AFT President Randi Weingarten and other union officers May 2 at the White House for the first Teachers of the Year State Dinner.

Chiera — a public school teacher for 30-plus years whose term as AFTNJ president ends in June — describes this event as “the highlight of my career.”

“First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona honored the dedication and commitment of all educators and professionals who encompass our education system,” Chiera said a few days later. “Upon returning to the White House from North Carolina, President Joe Biden stopped by to thank everyone for the work we do for all our students.”

Chiera did not take the recognition for granted.

“I have witnessed our profession be demoralized and disrespected by public leaders, but through all the attacks and the noise, teachers continued to do what they do best: educate the children who walk through their classroom doors,” Chiera said. “The 2024 Teachers of the Year State Dinner was such a contrast to the days when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blamed and threatened violence to us all. The Biden administration not only understands the value of educators but also the work and effort teachers put in every day.”

State teachers of the year from 49 states were among the more than 200 guests at the dinner. Other attendees included Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff; Chiera met them both separately and posed for pictures.

As the event was winding down, Chiera said her thoughts turned to “how lucky I was to be able to attend, and how I wish all teachers could personally experience the love and appreciation I felt in the East Room.”

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