On Tuesday, President Barack Obama held a ceremony to congratulate the top teachers of each state and the 2011 Teacher of the Year. At a time when educational disparities among minorities continue to make headlines, competent African-American teachers are critical to each child’s success in the classroom.

The African-American educators that were deemed as the best in their states included LaTonya E. Waller of Virginia; Matinga Ragatz of Michigan; Phil R. Wilson of Alabama; Daniella C. Roumou of the Virgin Islands; Jon Nathaniel Rolle of D.C.; and Natalie Y. Wester of Ohio.

President Obama said it is just as important to celebrate these champions in the education field as it is to celebrate the winners of the Super Bowl. He talked about how his fifth grade teacher made a deep impact on his life and encouraged him to pursue his dreams.

“The most effective teachers are the ones who are constantly striving to get better and help their students get better. Those teachers who stay up late grading papers. The teachers who give up their afternoons and free periods to give that student a little bit of extra one-on-one help, and spend evenings and weekends developing lesson plans and activities that don’t just teach the material, but make it come alive. And the teachers who see the potential in students even when the students themselves don’t see that potential,” Obama said.

The ceremony was held in the White House Rose Garden on National Teachers Day. A committee representing the major national education organizations chose the National Teacher of the Year, Michelle Shearer of Maryland, from the winners of the State Teacher of the Year award.

Obama also renewed his promise to improve the No Child Left Behind policy and to provide better training and compensation for teachers.

“That means doing a better job of preparing teachers, doing a better job of measuring their success in the classroom, helping them improve in providing professional development, and then holding them accountable. Because if we truly believe in the importance of teachers, then we’ve got to help teachers become more effective,” Obama said.