WASHINGTON — Susan Bumgarner was in a parent-teacher conference at Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School in Oklahoma City when her cellphone started ringing Friday.
Wanting to finish, the prekindergarten teacher ignored her phone. Then the phone on the wall started ringing. After she finished the conference, she found out the White House was calling to find experts on early education.
Bumgarner certainly qualifies. She has been teaching prekindergarten students for 20 years and has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Oklahoma in early education. She was recently nominated for Oklahoma City public schools teacher of the year.
On Tuesday, Bumgarner was among the guests of first lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union speech at the Capitol.
She said she's not sure why the White House picked her, but she knows Oklahoma was selected for its leadership in early education. The state offers prekindergarten to all public school students and requires classes be taught by people with degrees and certifications in early childhood education.
In his speech, President Barack Obama proposed making “high-quality preschool available to every child in America.”
He said, “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job and form more stable families of their own.
“So let's do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”
Just before heading to the White House for a pre-speech tour, Bumgarner said she was looking forward to “every little thing” about the night. “I'm just beside myself,” she said. “It's just amazing.”