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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Teachers deservedly get Red Carpet treatment

Teachers deservedly get Red Carpet treatment

MINNEAPOLIS -- Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, saw the 2014 All-Star Game as an opportunity to shine a light on teachers.

"Thank a teacher," she said.

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Biden did just that while riding with 30 teachers in the 10th annual All-Star Game Red Carpet Show on Tuesday afternoon and then attending the game with them.

In doing so, she hoped to thank way more than the 30 teachers representing each Major League club as winners of the Major League Baseball, Target and People Magazine "All-Star Teachers" campaign.

To Biden, those 30 teachers represented the thousands of others around this country who serve our children in so many ways.

"It is amazing," she said. "I love what MLB has done today with the All-Star Game. I like to say the players are All-Stars, but the teachers are really the All-Stars. Thank you for honoring our teachers."

Biden was reminded of the selflessness and commitment of the teachers during the ride through downtown Minneapolis to Target Field.

"Even when we were on the trolley ride, some of them were yelling, 'Do your summer reading,'" she said. "Everybody was so enthusiastic. It was a great experience. I hope all Americans honor teachers, lift them up and celebrate them. I think that's important."

Earlier on Tuesday, Commissioner Bud Selig spoke proudly of the sport's philanthropic efforts during his time in office.

"You've heard me say it before," he said, "This sport is a social institution."

In that way, Selig believes baseball's duty is to be a good citizen of the country by participating in an assortment of efforts.

One part of that was the selection of the 30 teachers who took part in Tuesday's pregame ceremonies.

"Target is really excited to lift up and honor the contributions teachers make all across this country in setting up young people for success," said Laysha Ward, Target's president of community relations. "It's just such an honor. Target understands that education is so important for this country to remain globally competitive."

She was thrilled that Biden wanted to participate.

"Dr. Biden is just an extraordinary role model because she's also a teacher," Ward said. "Target is so thrilled that Dr. Biden said, 'You know what, I want to step up and come here and say to teachers thank you for what you do every day.' Teachers are such a critical component of making sure that students reach their full potential. Quite frankly, teachers don't do this to be recognized. They're not doing it for the accolades. But it's a wonderful opportunity for Target, People Magazine and MLB to say to teachers, 'You matter, and we're really grateful for your service and the contributions you make every day in classrooms all across this country.'"

For the 30 teachers, it was an experience they're unlikely to ever forget. One of them is Neil Johnson, who just finished his 39th year of teaching math and coaching soccer at Shakopee High School in the Minneapolis suburbs.

"This is unbelievable," he said. "Every teacher should have this opportunity. I'm feeling overwhelmed right now with everything that's happening."

Johnson just retired after 39 years in the classroom, but this fall, he will return to begin his 40th season of coaching soccer.

"My older brother was going to be a math teacher, and I kind of followed in his footsteps," Johnson said. "I just like working with people. Teachers don't go into the profession for the money at all. They like sharing their ideas and being with people. It's standing in front of kids, working with kids, both in the classroom and outside the classroom. Getting that 'ah ha' math moment after some struggles. It's just fun."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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