CCSSO Announces Finalists for 2023 National Teacher of the Year

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Washington, D.C. (January 25, 2023) – The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today announced that five exemplary educators from across the country are finalists for 2023 National Teacher of the Year:

  • Harlee Harvey, the 2023 Alaska Teacher of the Year, is a first-grade teacher who works to authentically integrate the local Alaska Native Iñupiaq culture and knowledge systems into her lessons.
  • Carolyn Kielma, the 2023 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, is a high school science teacher who provides a trusted adult ear for students who need help, and who creates an inclusive environment where all students feel valued, accepted and treated with equity.
  • Jermar Rountree, the 2023 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year, is a preschool through 8th grade physical education and health teacher who emphasizes the importance of teaching mental health along with physical wellness and believes in the importance of involving family and community in all aspects of schooling. Along with being a district-wide leader in physical and mental health education, he has developed relationships with a large variety of community organizations that help support his students to meet their full potential.
  • Kimberly Radostits, the 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year, is a secondary Spanish teacher. She leads a mentoring program for students, utilizing an early warning system to identify struggling students and ensure they’re on track to graduate in four years. She also co-directs a New Teacher Academy for all new hires to the district.
  • Rebecka Peterson, the 2023 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, is a high school math teacher who is passionate about making math exciting, relevant and accessible to all. She emphasizes listening to stories and helps administer the “One Good Thing” blog, which has chronicled positive stories from her classroom.

CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program identifies exceptional teachers across the country, celebrates their work in and outside the classroom, and, through one-of-a-kind professional development opportunities, helps them amplify their voices and empowers them to take part in policy discussions at the state and national level.  

“Teachers across the country have met the extraordinary challenges of the last few years with dedication and ingenuity, helping students recover and setting them up for long-term success. CCSSO is proud to celebrate teachers across the country – from the coast of Alaska to Washington, D.C. and everywhere in between – through the National Teacher of the Year Program,” said CCSSO Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller. “Congratulations to the finalists and thank you to the Selection Committee for your work in selecting finalists from among the outstanding 2023 State Teachers of the Year.”  

Each year, states, U.S. extra-state territories, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity select outstanding educators to serve as State Teachers of the Year. There are 55 teachers in the 2023 cohort. From that group, the National Teacher of the Year Selection Committee, comprised of 17 individuals and education organizations, selects finalists based on written applications.

The finalists announced today will conduct interviews with the National Teacher of the Year Program’s Selection Committee, and CCSSO will announce the selected 2023 National Teacher of the Year later this spring. The 2023 National Teacher of the Year will spend the next year serving as an ambassador for education and an advocate for all teachers and students.

“We are proud to recognize teachers across the country, who undertake inspiring work for students every day. The finalists for 2023 National Teacher of the Year are exemplars of the profession, exuding passion for their work and committed to meeting the academic needs and prioritizing the wellbeing of all students,” the Selection Committee said in a statement. “The teachers work to incorporate community traditions and resources into their work while always keeping students at the center. Any of them would do an excellent job as the next National Teacher of the Year.”

Additional information on the finalists can be found below. More information about the 2023 State Teachers of the Year and CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program is available at

Special thanks to the National Teacher of the Year Program sponsors: Google for Education, Equitable, Pearson, Cambium Assessment, Cognia, Curriculum Associates, Data Recognition Corporation, ETS, GoGuardian, MetaMetrics, NWEA, Smarter Balanced and Voya.

Harlee Harvey, 2023 Alaska Teacher of the Year

Harlee Harvey is a first-grade teacher at Tikiġaq School in Point Hope, Alaska. She has been teaching there for nine years. Harvey was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. Upon completing her Bachelor of Arts in elementary education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2014, she moved to Point Hope. Harvey taught fifth grade there for three years before transferring to first grade. While teaching fifth grade, she earned her Master of Education in English as a second language and bilingual education through the American College of Education in 2017. Harvey received her educational specialist degree in educational leadership from the American College of Education in 2020 and returned in May of 2022 to finish her doctorate.

Teaching in rural Alaska has been a unique and rewarding experience for Harvey. In a region where most teachers leave within two years, she has thrived. Over the years, she has learned two of the most important practices she can implement in her classroom: culturally responsive teaching and relationship building with students, families and community. These relationships and authentic integration of culture in the classroom have allowed her to meet her students and families where they are, encourage academic and social growth and learn alongside her students as they teach her about their traditions and culture. It has been an honor and blessing for Harvey to be able to serve the students and community of Tikiġaq and she looks forward to many more years.

Harvey’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.

Carolyn Kielma, 2023 Connecticut Teacher of the Year

Since 2002, Carolyn Kielma has taught the love of science to students in Connecticut. For the last 15 years, she has taught biology, biotechnology and forensics, environmental science, anatomy and physiology and the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class at Bristol Eastern High School. Since earning her Bachelor of Science in biology from Susquehanna University and her Master of Science in secondary education from the University of New Haven, Kielma has found her greatest reward comes from the successes of her students – not just in science, but in life.

Kielma believes teaching is not only about curriculum but also helping youth become better humans. Her goal is to provide an inclusive environment where all students feel valued, accepted and treated with equity. Kielma believes learning is not about knowing the right answer; it is a process of discovery. As AVID coordinator at her school, Kielma works to close the achievement gap by providing opportunities that prepare all students for college readiness and success in a global society. She provides professional development to inspire teachers across her district and travels nationwide to train teachers in engagement strategies that promote equity and inclusion.

Kielma recently received a fellowship grant via Fund for Teachers to study wolves, bears and elk at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center and within Yellowstone National Park and share her experiences virtually with her urban students. She also coordinates STEMonday, a monthly science, technology, engineering and mathematics challenge which connects and builds relationships between elementary and high school students.

Kielma’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.

Jermar Rountree, 2023 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year

Jermar Rountree is a health and physical education teacher at Center City Public Charter School, Brightwood Campus. In the Center City network, he also serves as the District teacher lead for the physical education and health department. Outside of Center City, he has led the state-level Physical Education Leadership Cadre in evaluating elementary and secondary health curricula in order to share that information with physical educators throughout the District.

Rountree started his career at the YMCA in Danbury, Connecticut, in 2008, working with children of all ages. He also started his own business teaching day care personnel how to deliver safe and fun physical education to their students. In 2012, Rountree moved to Washington, D.C., to begin teaching physical education and health to elementary students.

Rountree teaches not only game activities and sports, but also teaches students about their social, emotional and mental growth. Rountree thrives on connecting his students to the community through partnerships. He has established in-school, after-school and weekend partnerships with organizations to help kids grow in all facets of life. He serves as a voice of the community and has relationships with every student and family at Center City PCS, Brightwood. Rountree graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Arts in history in May 2008 and holds a Master of Arts in elementary education from Relay Graduate School of Education.

Rountree’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.

Kimberly Radostits, 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year

Kimberly Radostits, a National Board Certified Teacher (world languages), is a Spanish teacher for eighth through 12th grade and teacher mentor at Oregon Community Unit District 220 in Oregon, Illinois. Her goal is to provide all students with a sense of community in a space where they feel safe and confident that they can excel.

In addition to teaching Spanish, Radostits leads a freshman mentoring program known as Hawks Take Flight, with the goal of keeping students on track for graduation in four years. The program utilizes an early warning system to identify students who are struggling in order to provide them with assistance upon their entrance to high school. This work extends beyond the classroom and is firmly rooted in building strong relationships with students and their families in order to give them access to the skills and support they need to be successful learners and community members. Additionally, Radostits co-directs a New Teacher Academy that provides support and consistent professional development to all new hires in her district to promote teacher retention and district connectedness.

Radostits was named an Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Emerging Leader in 2015. Since being named Illinois Teacher of the Year, Radostits has used her platform to connect with districts around the state, the Illinois State Board of Education and a variety of legislative stakeholders to advocate and raise awareness about the importance of on-track indicators statewide.

Radostits earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish language and literature from Northern Illinois University and a Master of Arts in educational leadership from Aurora University.

Radostits’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.

Rebecka Peterson, 2023 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

Rebecka Peterson is a 10th to 12th grade mathematics teacher at Union High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Peterson says her students bring out the best version of her, and she hopes she does the same. She helps administer the blog “One Good Thing,” in which she posts something good from her classroom every day. She has contributed 1,400 posts to the blog, inspiring her students to reflect on hope and joy in their own journals.

This year, she has broadened the scope of “One Good Thing” as she is visiting teachers in all 77 Oklahoma counties in her role as Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. She reports about Oklahoma educators’ stories of hope, tenacity and creativity on the “Teachers of Oklahoma” social media pages. At the forefront of her education philosophy is listening to stories. A proud immigrant of Swedish-Iranian descent, Peterson is passionate about making mathematics engaging, relevant and accessible to all, no matter their background.

Peterson was recently named one of six state-level finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This is Peterson’s 14th year in education and her 11th at Union High School. She earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Oklahoma Wesleyan University and a Master of Arts in mathematics at the University of South Dakota.

Peterson’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.


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, Bureau of Indian Education, 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.

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