For sixth-grade math teacher Barbara Stoflet of Gatewood Elementary in Minnetonka, it was thrill enough to be in Washington, D.C., receiving the President's Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Then the White House called.
A staff person who reached her at her hotel wanted to hear about her years in teaching and wondered if she knew how to post a blog entry. "I formulated answers quickly, not knowing why he was calling," Stoflet said.
Yes, she said, she could blog.
Then came the point of the call: Would she be interested in introducing President Obama at the awards presentation?
"I tried to keep my voice as steady and calm as possible as I absolutely danced around the hotel room," Stoflet said. "I said I would be honored to do that."
Stoflet was chosen for the honor by the National Science Foundation, which sponsors the national science and math teaching awards.
Among more than 40 teachers from other states also receiving awards, the foundation said Stoflet's background and classroom video stood out.
Asked to keep her introduction a secret from the other teachers, Stoflet had 48 hours in the midst of a busy conference to write her speech. She submitted first one draft, then a second. By the day of the introduction, last Wednesday, she and the White House had settled on Stoflet's two-minute talk.
Back in Minnetonka on the day of the awards ceremony, students and teachers at Gatewood watched by computer monitor as Stoflet spoke.
"We all watched her give the speech, and it was wonderful," said Donna Montgomery, principal of Gatewood Elementary, which is part of the Hopkins School District. "It made us all a little weepy with pride."
Stoflet, 48, who started teaching in 1984, prefaced her introduction for the president with the story of her own background. She said her father's education had poorly prepared him for the skills he needed in life, and that shaped her own decision to use real-life lessons in her classroom.
Her creativity in using baking ingredients and recipes for brownies and chocolate-chip cookies to teach students about fractions won her the award.
"And now," said Stoflet, "it is with great honor that I introduce to you a man whose lessons extend far beyond the walls of a classroom, who is writing history, modeling a present that is challenging and adventurous, but also hopefully rewarding and fun, who is helping to shape the future for all of us, President Barack Obama."
Later Stoflet had the chance to meet Obama. He asked her for tips on how he could help his daughter with math homework. Stoflet's advice to the president was to "Have her teach you instead of you trying to teach her. That way you will know what she knows and doesn't know."
For the White House blog on the day of the speech, Stoflet wrote:
"As I prepared for this time in Washington, D.C., I was beside myself with the anticipation of everything I would be able to bring back to my students. I brought three cameras and was hoping to use at least one of them to capture a photo of President Obama. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be offered the incredible honor of introducing the President.
"I wish I could be two places at once so I could observe my students as they watch everything unfold on their laptops! We'll have SO many brilliant discussions when I return! I was able to e-mail my students before school started today so I know this will be a top dinner table topic tonight!"
On her way back to Minnesota last week, Stoflet said, "It still doesn't feel like it could possibly be me who experienced this."
Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711