updated 07/15/2014 AT 6:05 PM ET
•originally published 07/15/2014 AT 7:50 PM ET
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and an English teacher, joined in the celebration Tuesday in Minneapolis to cheer PEOPLE and Major League Baseball’s 30 All-Star Teachers.
“This is one of the things I want to do, to try to raise awareness about how great teachers are and how hard they work, and I think Major League Baseball has done an incredible job,” says Biden, whose students at Northern Virginia Community College know her as “Dr. B.”
“It makes me so proud to be a teacher,” she added.
The All-Star Teachers campaign, sponsored by Target, brought the 30 winning teachers – one representing each Major League team – together for three whirlwind days, featuring a reception with Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr., a trolley ride along with ballplayers in a red carpet parade and a serenade in their honor by Broadway and film star Idina Menzel before the start of Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Target Field.
“I feel that we don’t get enough recognition,” said Brenda Medina, a fourth-grade bilingual teacher at Oak Park Elementary School in Corpus Christi, Texas, who was honored for her work with students learning English as a second language. “But we’re getting it all now!”
Added Tracy Ruiz, whose work at Will C. Wood High in Vacaville, California, included launching a Kindness Week to fulfill wishes, including a school-wide show of support for a student whose sister had died of cancer: “I’m incredibly honored to be one of the many here, and just to be able to do what I do every day.”
Honorees ranged from Hank Kauffman, a math teacher at Ladue High School outside St. Louis, who recently retired after 52 years in the classroom, to Elizabeth Zipp, who will start only her fourth year of teaching this fall at Cordova Middle School in Phoenix.
“No one has the right to waste a day in the life of a child,” said Rachel Blanks, a fifth-grade English language arts teacher at Wogaman 5-8 School in Dayton, Ohio. “Because I know they’re going to ask questions, it makes me want to learn so I can inspire them.”
Indeed, the drive to make a difference unites all 30 teachers, and Dr. Biden as well. “Sure, we’re teaching them our subject matter,” Biden says, “but I hope that we’re instilling in them that they can do anything they want to do. That’s the job of a teacher.”
“There’s no guarantee I’m ever going to get a signature from a baseball player,” said Michael Sinclair, a teacher for 26 years at Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center in Michigan, who carried around two baseballs – one representing the American League, one representing the National League – for his fellow honorees to sign. “There’s 3.7 million teachers in America, and these are 30 of the best teachers right here. I want those signatures.”
Dr. Jill Biden (@DrBiden) July 15, 2014