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Press Release

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Connecticut Teacher Named 2016 National Teacher of the Year

High School History Teacher Jahana Hayes to be Honored by President Obama Tuesday at White House
Contact:Olympia Meolaolympia.meola@ccsso.org202-336-7071

Washington, D.C. (April 28, 2016) - The Council of Chief State School Officers today announced that Jahana Hayes, a high school history teacher in Waterbury, CT is the 2016 National Teacher of the Year.

Hayes teaches at John F. Kennedy High School, but the community is her classroom. Connecting lessons learned in school to real life is an integral part of her instruction. Hayes seeks to send students into the world not just academically prepared but as conscientious and productive members of society.

"I am honored to be the 2016 National Teacher of the Year," Hayes said. "In the course of the next year, I hope to stoke a national conversation about education that is inclusive of everyone. I want to engage people who have not traditionally been part of the conversation to join in this important effort to prepare well-rounded students for success in life."

The National Teacher of the Year program, run by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and presented by Voya Financial, Inc., identifies exceptional teachers in the country, recognizes their effective work in the classroom, engages them in a year of professional learning, amplifies their voices, and empowers them to participate in policy discussions at the state and national levels.

As the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Hayes will spend a year traveling the nation to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers. Hayes looks forward to sharing her belief in the importance of service-learning, and in making the teaching profession more attractive and appealing to young people across all demographics.

"CCSSO is honored to support the nation's great teachers, and I am excited that people across the nation and the world will soon learn from Jahana Hayes' commitment to education," said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO.

"Jahana values a quality education for all students, and she finds ways to engage students outside of her classroom walls to improve her community - and strengthen the character of her kids. I look forward to the year ahead and all that parents, students and fellow educators will learn from Jahana."

Every year, exemplary teachers from each state, the U.S. extra-state territories, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity are selected as State Teachers of the Year. From that group, the National Teacher of the Year is chosen by a panel representing 15 renowned education organizations, which collectively represent more than 7 million educators.

"The Selection Committee selected Jahana Hayes as the 2016 National Teacher of the Year because we believe her message of service-learning resonates in the education discussion today," the committee stated. "In addition, we believe she has a strong story that speaks to educators and will bring an important perspective to the public discourse over the next year."

"Teachers like Jahana Hayes are leading the way to a brighter future for America. What an exceptional educator - we are all proud," said Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. "Extraordinary academic rigor, high expectations, and unwavering commitment to service outside the classroom are the characteristics that Jahana brings to Waterbury students each and every day. She is truly preparing the next generation of global citizens. I want to congratulate Jahana and thank her for making a difference in the lives of so many Connecticut children and families."

"Jahana Hayes inspires her students to believe in their ability to change the world. She ignites a love of learning and builds their self-confidence. This well-deserved distinction provides Jahana the platform and opportunity to share her gifts, passion, and talent with students and educators across the nation. Without question, Jahana will inspire others to believe in the power of teachers to change the world through education," said Connecticut Department of Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell. "Connecticut is so proud of Jahana. She is a true role model for educators across the nation who seek to deliver on the promise of an outstanding education for every student."

"To be the National Teacher of the Year requires not only pedagogical precision, but also the ability to connect to the hearts and minds of a school community," said Waterbury Superintendent Kathleen M. Ouellette. "Jahana's own life experience, her passion for education, and the inspirational manner in which she impacts her students, all contribute greatly to her success. Jahana has masterfully refined a focused, pragmatic, yet heartfelt approach to an evolving global vision of education, bringing her to this pinnacle - the 2016 National Teacher of the Year! We in Waterbury, Connecticut are very proud!"

The finalists for 2016 National Teacher of the Year are Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, (Washington), Daniel Jocz, (California), and Shawn Sheehan, (Oklahoma).  You can read more about the finalists here. 

Hayes and the other 55 State Teachers of the Year have been invited to an event Tuesday at the White House, where they will be honored by President Barack Obama.

Learn more about Jahana Hayes, including video, photos and a bio.

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The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.