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WASHINGTON – National Teacher of the Year Kurt Russell and state finalists for the award were honored Wednesday at a ceremony at the White House.

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According to The Associated Press, the Council of Chief State School Officers announced last week that Russell, a 50-year-old history teacher and basketball coach at Oberlin High School in Ohio, had won the 2022 title. The selection committee called the 25-year teaching veteran “a powerful advocate who always puts students at the center of his work,” the organization said in an April 19 news release.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden congratulated Russell in an emotional address, saying teachers helped him overcome a childhood stutter, the AP reported.

“I wonder how I got here. I got here because of my parents and my teachers,” Biden said, adding that he learned from his wife, longtime educator and first lady Jill Biden, that teaching is more than a profession.

“Teaching is not what Jill does, it’s who she is, like most of you,” he said.

Russell told the crowd that “each student needs a champion, no matter what the circumstances are,” according to the AP.

“It’s important that my students see themselves as I see them, with unlimited potential and gifts,” he said.

Russell was named the 2022 Ohio Teacher of the Year in September.

“The Teacher of the Year program does an outstanding job of identifying and celebrating Ohio’s incredible educators,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement at the time. “I want to congratulate Mr. Russell on being named Ohio’s Teacher of the Year. All of Ohio’s teachers have shown their dedication and commitment to our students especially during the ongoing pandemic.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.