Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, first lady Jill Biden and President Joe Biden applaud as Rebekah Peterson is named the 2023 National Teacher of the Year, in the Rose Garden at the White House on April 24, 2023 in Washington, DC.
CNN  — 

President Joe Biden said Monday that he would let people know “real soon” about his reelection plans – stopping short of announcing another run during a White House ceremony honoring the 2023 Teacher of the Year recipients.

Asked by reporters about his reelection plans, Biden responded: “I told you I’m planning on running. I’ll let you know real soon.”

The president’s comments come amid heightened speculation that he could announce his campaign for reelection as soon as this week.

During Monday’s Rose Garden ceremony, Biden called teaching a “difficult position that has gotten even harder,” zeroing-in on Republicans’ approach to education and gun safety. The president has used his administration’s executive authority to attempt to counter the growing number of conservative education-related policy efforts that have ignited cultural debate around the country in recent years – something he highlighted during Monday’s event.

Biden scrutinized Republican efforts across the country to target LGBT students and teachers, saying, “Our schools should be places where everyone is safe and safe to be themselves … but across the country of late from some of our friends on the extreme right, LGBT students and teachers are under attack from hateful laws.”

He also criticized efforts to ban certain books from schools and libraries, saying that “empty shelves don’t help kids learn very much.”

“I never thought, as a student of history, I never thought I’d be a president whose fighting against elected officials trying to ban and banning books,” Biden said. “I’ve never met a parent wants a politician dictating what their kid can learn and what they can think, or who they can be.”

He said “teachers now find themselves on the front lines, and gun violence is a real problem.”

“We want to do more. I continue to call on Congress for common sense gun safety laws to protect kids and our teachers. Teaching should not be a life threatening profession, and educators should not need to be armed to feel safe in the classroom,” the president continued.

Teacher of the Year to highlight educator stories

The Council of Chief State School Officers’ 2023 National Teacher of the Year, Rebecka Peterson, has taught high school math classes for 11 years at Union High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was previously the 2022 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Peterson, an immigrant of Swedish-Iranian descent, plans to use her platform as Teacher of the Year “to highlight teachers’ stories of the good that’s happening in education,” according to the CCSSO.

“Teaching is a profession that affords creativity, autonomy and purpose, and Rebecka believes that highlighting the stories of joy happening in classrooms across the country will help encourage current teachers and attract new educators to the profession,” a CCSSO statement said, adding that Peterson’s lived experience “with supportive teachers who celebrated her diversity and math abilities informs Rebecka’s efforts to create a supportive and accessible classroom for students.”

The Oklahoma educator has advocated for higher salaries to address teacher shortages among those teaching STEM courses, calling for higher salaries to bring more educators on board and address gender disparities in her field.

“I’ve been asking teachers all over Oklahoma: How do we recruit and retain highly qualified educators, particularly in STEM? And pay certainly comes up every time, especially when we’re talking about recruiting,” Peterson told ABC News.

Prior to her 11 years teaching high school math courses, Peterson taught for three years at the collegiate level. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Oklahoma Wesleyan University and a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of South Dakota.

Last year, Biden honored Kurt Russell, an Ohio history instructor who teaches courses rooted in exploring oppression and Black history, as the 2022 Teacher of the Year.