What do a stately ceremony with Hillary Rodham Clinton and a glitzy bash with Michael Jackson have in common?
Deerfield School science teacher Tom Christie recently attended both as one of several teachers recognized as outstanding educators.
Christie was in Los Angeles from March 24-28 to receive a 1992-93 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. There, he and other teachers were honored with $25,000 checks and a performance by Michael Jackson.
Christie returned Sunday from Washington, D.C., where the first lady spoke to Christie and other recipients of 1992 Presidential Awards.
Christie said he enjoyed meeting both Jackson and Clinton.
"He (Jackson) was very friendly in his soft-spoken way. I didn't feel that he was trying to avoid me or my questions," Christie said.
He said he left Washington convinced more than ever that Clinton is "a very, very intelligent woman."
"The teachers there also sensed that she has a real concern for improving education," Christie said. "We left feeling that she believes the greatest hope for the future of our country lies with our educational system."
WHILE CLINTON made a speaking presentation to the teachers, Jackson performed his hit "Heal the World." Christie said he was impressed that Jackson decided to perform at the awards ceremony.
"He chose to do that as opposed to perform at the Academy Awards the next night," Christie said.
Christie said Jackson and Michael Milken are joining forces to create the Educational Entertainment Network. The two are busy purchasing the rights to educational videos so they can provide them for educators free of charge.
Christie said his fifth- and sixth-grade students were impressed that he'd met the "King of Pop."
"They thought it was pretty cool," Christie said. "I think they were more impressed with my meeting Michael Jackson than my meeting Hillary Clinton. I can't understand that."
CHRISTIE SAID that aside from meeting Clinton and Jackson, one of the biggest thrills for him was getting to meet other educators. At both ceremonies, the teachers were asked to share what they thought were their best lessons.
"It's really interesting to see what other people are doing and how you compare. Lawrence is way ahead of some school districts and way behind others," Christie said. "I think it's important that all teachers interact with other teachers. Somehow we've got to free up time for that to happen."
Christie said he felt he was really representing Lawrence when he attended the two ceremonies.
"The honor wasn't just my honor. It's representative of the people who work in the district," Christie said. "Without the support and encouragement they provide, I wouldn't be as successful as I am."
CHRISTIE received a $7,500 stipend along with his Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching. That money is to be invested in the school.
Christie will use $2,500 of those funds to attend a seminar in California on integrating math and science, and he will share what he learns with other Lawrence teachers.
The $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation is all for Christie's use. Christie has used some of the money to buy a gas barbecue grill. He said he also might use some of the money to renovate his house.