In honoring the nation's top teachers on Wednesday, President Bush was reminded of how he once disrupted his fourth-grade music class by drawing sideburns on his face and mimicking Elvis (search).

"I told you not to tell the Elvis story," Bush said to his wife, Laura Bush, a former teacher and librarian, who disclosed how the president had gotten in trouble by performing for the other students.

But then he added: "The best decision I made was to marry a teacher."

After the ribbing in the sun-washed Rose Garden, Bush honored teachers from across America, including Kathleen Mellor (search), 55, an English teacher from Rhode Island who was named National Teacher of the Year (search) for 2004.

Mellor is a teacher at Davisville Middle School in North Kingstown, R.I., Mellor reshaped the English-as-a-second-language program in her district, allowing students to be integrated with others while they also got special help. She also formed a parents group for speakers of other languages, improving their ability to help their children.

She is known for setting high but realistic standards and for earning such respect that students want her at their first communions and backyard dances.

Bush praised the teachers for fighting the "soft bigotry of low expectations."

"Mr. President, we share the same goals" and are "firm in the belief that it can be done," Mellor responded.

The National Teacher of the Year program, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (search), is sponsored by Scholastic, Inc. (search), the publisher of children's books.