"I don't think happiness and purpose are complicated concepts. We each need to take care of our family - for many parents, that means less time at work and more time nurturing the family's emotional and spiritual needs. And we all need to give back to the community a little more than we take - which is what Make a Difference Day is about. If we followed these principles, I believe most people would be fulfilled and most societal problems would evaporate."

DR. BETSY ROGERS
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Dr. Betsy Rogers, 51, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, knowing she wanted to teach. Her career began in 1974 but was interrupted by motherhood because she believed no job was more important than being a parent. When Rogers returned to the public schools in 1984, she sought out a low-performing elementary school with at-risk children. Here, she believed, her efforts could make the greatest difference. For this idealistic desire to help children with limited opportunities and her professional ability to give such children tools to help themselves, Rogers won the country's oldest and most prestigious teaching award when she was chosen as the National Teacher of the Year for 2003.

"As the current National Teacher of the Year, my sons were impressed that I recently rubbed elbows with several MTV 'personalities.' That impressed them much more than my meeting with President Bush. Meeting with such diverse people is part of my job this year - as an international spokesperson for education. It's a long way from my classroom in rural Alabama, where poverty, abuse, and neglect are part of the daily lives of over half of my students.

"Twenty years ago, when I visited rural Alabama and saw the poverty afflicting these children, I felt compelled to teach here. Despite the poverty, the kids possessed hope, and I believed I could help them bridge the gap limiting their opportunities.