On April 26, the White House honored the 2017 Teachers of the Year, but this year's smaller event drew mixed reactions after some participants called the proceedings a "disgrace" (video below).
The ceremony, which usually takes place in the East Room or the Rose Garden, was brief -- Sydney Chaffee of Massachusetts won 2017 Teacher of the Year, making her both the first ever charter school educator and the first teacher from her state to take home the prestigious award, notes The Washington Post. Though the teacher of the year usually gives a speech during the event, Chaffee did not make any remarks.
"There is nothing more important than being a teacher, and certainly for being a great teacher," said President Donald Trump, according to the White House transcript. "You're all great, great teachers, and congratulations to all."
It was First Lady Melania Trump's 47th birthday, and the honorees sang her "Happy Birthday."
The president said that Mrs. Trump was heavily involved in planning the event, notes the White House's transcript of his remarks.
"She is a tremendous fan of wonderful teachers," he added, according to the transcript. "She's worked very hard and we're having some special times here."
But several people who attended told The Washington Post that the event was poorly run.
"There was no planning, no care, no water in the hot rooms, and no respect for the families," a parent of one of the honored teachers, who wished to remain anonymous, emailed The Post. "One state coordinator who had been working on her job since 1999 said it was a disgrace and the most terrible thing she had witnessed."
Some people, including family members and a school superintendent who had flown to the capital to support his state's winner, said that they were not allowed into the ceremony, while other participants said that Chaffee's family was made to wait in a hallway before they were allowed into the Oval Office.
At the annual event, Mr. Trump invited 55 teachers into the Oval Office, where they stood around him as he sat at his desk and spoke to them for a few minutes, reports Mercury News. Also present Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Typically, the event features speeches and sometimes performances, and the president then spends time with many of the honorees.
Despite complaints, some people appreciated the more intimate, off-the-cuff style of the event and thanked Mrs. Trump for her work in planning it.
"This is the first time Teachers have been honored this way by the First Lady," one person tweeted below a photo of the ceremony. "Thank you, Mrs. Trump. God Bless!"
"I am so impressed with the attention finally given to the American people other than Politicians... amazing!!" said another.