The U.S. Secretary of Education delivered congratulations and boxes of books to schools in Hancock County on Wednesday.
"The little letter "i" tripped on a bump. Help she cried!" read Margaret Spellings to a classroom of kids at Gulfview-Charles B. Murphy Elementary in Hancock County.
The highest ranking education official in America seemed right at home with the first and second graders. Only an abundance of flashbulbs pointed to someone special reading "Alphabet Adventure".
Education Secretary Spellings stepped into the spotlight at the last minute. She was to be accompanied by First Lady Laura Bush, who had a late schedule change.
America's education boss read to the children and got a progress report from their teacher.
"We're all happy. And things are so much better. And many of them are back in their homes," said an emotional Laura Turcotte, who teaches first graders.
"I really want to say a great big congratulations. 'Cause I'm very proud of you. Not only for the physical rebuilding that's going on, but all that you're accomplishing academically," said Secretary Spellings at a schoolwide assembly.
Despite Katrina-related heartache and challenges, these students have maintained superior academic ratings. The secretary encouraged the kids and brought gifts to help them maintain that success.
"Yes, there's some for everybody in the whole school. But we're starting with you all," she said, clutching an armful of brand new books.
Boxes of books were available to everyone. In all, one million will be distributed to children in hurricane stricken areas of the Gulf Coast.
"And that's why you have all this good stuff. So you can keep on reading all summer," said the Education Secretary.