A special adviser to the U.S. secretary of education visited Lawrence on Tuesday.
Federal education official Terry Dozier visited Lawrence on Tuesday to applaud the local school district for its professional development program.
"What you're doing here is really remarkable, and you're showing the nation what we have to do in professional development," Dozier told a group of school district officials.
Lawrence is one of five recipients of the U.S. Department of Education Professional Development Award, which included a $9,000 prize. Dozier plans to visit all five award-winners. Lawrence is the first she visited.
"We're really excited about the work you're doing, and I wanted to see it and bring attention to it," Dozier said.
Dozier, a special adviser to U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley, also visited three Lawrence elementary schools, where she talked with teachers about the importance of collaboration time and the role that professional development plays in student learning. Lawrence devotes 4.5 days a year to professional development.
"We thought in Washington it was very interesting that of the five winners ... two of them came from Kansas," Dozier said. "That clued us in that something is happening in Kansas."
The other Kansas winner was Manhattan's Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.
Kansas, Dozier said, is a state that has set standards for education and measures those through student achievement. Lawrence, in turn, is working to empower its teachers to help students surpass those standards.
Dozier said education faces tough challenges. A record 52.2 million U.S. children are enrolled in school this fall.
"Education is everybody's business," she said.
Dozier called for universities and colleges to do a better job of preparing teachers. She called for school districts to do a better job of retaining and helping good teachers. She called for teachers to do a better job of communicating what makes a good teacher.
Not all of Dozier's day in the city was spent on the heady issues of America's educational system. She also had some fun in classrooms.
At Sunset Hill School, teacher Nancy Parr's fourth-graders have been working on giving speeches.
"We've been talking about eye contact, and I think you have great eye contact," she told Dozier.
Employing that technique, Dozier gave an impromptu speech on the importance of family involvement in a child's education, a topic chosen by Kelsey Marvin, 9.
Dozier, who was born in Vietnam and adopted at a young age by Americans, also told the students about her love for teaching.
"The one thing I wanted to be more than anything in the world was a teacher," she said.
She fulfilled that dream, and in 1985, while teaching world history at a Columbia, S.C., high school, Dozier was selected National Teacher of the Year.