Kimberly Russell's phone hasn't stopped ringing since she stood on a stage at Eastfield College on Tuesday to introduce President Barack Obama.
"I have no idea how my phone number got out there," said Russell, the 45-year-old single mom and social studies teacher who was laid off from Dallas' Lincoln High School this year. "... It's crazy that I'm getting these calls -- me, a laid-off teacher."
It wasn't long ago when her phone rang and the caller was a secretary from the White House, asking whether Russell would like to introduce the president.
Russell, a Democrat who voted for Obama, said she wasn't sure what to think. "I said I'd do it, but I wasn't confident at all," she said. "I was just a bag of nerves."
She wrote her introduction and e-mailed it to be reviewed. She worked with a Secret Service agent about logistics, meeting the president and where she would stand on stage.
When she met Obama before the speech, she said "it was like meeting a person you've known all your life." As she stood on stage, waiting to deliver her speech, she heard the crowd chanting, "Obama, Obama, Obama."
She turned to the president, telling him that she was afraid the crowd would boo her, because all they really wanted was him. "He said, 'No, you can do it,'" Russell said.
And she did.
She told how her position was paid for by stimulus dollars until funding ran out, how she misses teaching. "I just talked as if I was talking to my friends," she said.
When Obama took the stage, he said teachers like Russell are why he's traveling the country, promoting his proposed $450 billion jobs bill that's designed to put people back to work. He also directed part of his speech at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who has said the bill is dead.
"Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas and look Kim Russell in the eye and tell her why she doesn't deserve to be back in the classroom doing what she loves, helping our kids," Obama said. "Come tell her students why they don't deserve to have their teacher back."
Russell said her son's elementary school principal announced on the loudspeaker that she would be introducing the president. All day, he said people were looking at him and she told him not to worry, that she was "doing a good thing."
Russell said she worries about setting a good example for her son. "I just hope this memory of watching me on TV, watching the car pick me up to go to MSNBC for an interview, stays," she said. "I hope he remembers what I've instilled in him -- you can do what you want to do, you can be who you want to be."
She said she doesn't blame her job loss on Republican Gov. Rick Perry for not accepting more stimulus money or the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature that cut public education funding this year to balance the budget.
"I'm not putting the responsibility all on one political party," she said. "I just think that political agendas ... are becoming the focus in our nation."
No job offers have arisen since her speech, but that's not why she spoke, Russell said.
"If I get a job, that's awesome," she said. "If I don't get one for a while, that's OK. I wasn't doing this with the hope of this finding me employment."
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610