Washington, D.C. (January 24, 2024) – The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today announced that four inspiring educators from across the country are finalists for the 2024 National Teacher of the Year.
CCSSO runs the National Teacher of the Year Program. 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. From a cohort of 55 State Teachers of the Year, the National Teacher of the Year Selection Committee, comprising 16 individuals and education organizations, selected finalists based on written applications. This year’s finalists are:
- Catherine Walker, the 2024 Alaska Teacher of the Year, is a high school science and career and technical education teacher who develops problem-based, career-oriented lessons with a focus on sustainability and stewardship of natural resources while encouraging students to build empathy and collaboration to solve problems in their community. She supports students who are traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers by opening her classroom to business partners who allow the students to envision themselves in future career pathways.
- Christy Todd, the 2024 Georgia Teacher of the Year, is a middle school music technology teacher who believes in every child’s creativity and in the power of unlocking it to deepen learning across subject areas. To address student wellbeing during the pandemic, she led the development of a schoolwide Make Kindness Normal podcast, engaging more than 500 students across subject areas and learning formats – in-person, virtual and hybrid – widening the possibilities for student response and reflection.
- Joe Nappi, the 2024 New Jersey Teacher of the Year, is a high school history teacher who encourages a critical examination of history while emphasizing each individual’s power to impact others. His blog, Ten Concrete Tips for Teaching About the Holocaust, reflects his efforts to foster a classroom environment where students feel comfortable discussing difficult curriculum topics, and his desire to bring about positive change led him to co-found a charity that raised more than $75,000 in staff donations to help students overcome financial difficulties affecting their classroom success.
- Missy Testerman, the 2024 Tennessee Teacher of the Year, is an English as a second language specialist and program director who works to ensure students are prepared to advocate for their limited English proficient families. In her rural Appalachian community, she builds bridges between cultures – families who have been in the area for centuries and newer immigrants – through a curriculum focused on a study of Americans from diverse backgrounds, allowing students to better understand that people are inherently the same and that they all belong.
CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program honors exceptional teachers across the country identified by their states and territories as teachers of the year by celebrating their work in and outside the classroom and, through a one-of-a-kind professional learning program, helps them amplify their instructional practices as well as their voices and empowers them to take part in policy discussions at the state and national level.
“Teachers nationwide have met the moment by responding to students’ individual needs in the face of myriad challenges from recent years to ensure students succeed. From rural Appalachia to the glacial slope of Alaska, these finalists represent the best of infusing creative approaches and building excitement for learning by students of teachers across the country whom CCSSO is honored to celebrate 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 efforts selecting finalists from among the remarkable 2024 State Teachers of the Year.”
The finalists announced today will interview with the National Teacher of the Year Program’s Selection Committee, and CCSSO will announce the 2024 National Teacher of the Year later this spring. The 2024 National Teacher of the Year will spend the next year serving as an ambassador and advocate for all teachers and students.
“We are proud to honor teachers across the country, who are inspiring and impacting the trajectory of students’ lives on a daily basis. The finalists for 2024 National Teacher of the Year embody academic excellence and are exemplars of the profession, intentional and thoughtful in their teaching and dedicated to serving all students across a wide array of cultures, backgrounds and experiences,” the Selection Committee said. “This year’s finalists engage students through connections to the world inside and outside of the classroom, building community, inclusivity and empathy – all worthy of the National Teacher of the Year title.”
Additional information on the finalists can be found below. More information about the 2024 State Teachers of the Year and CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program is available at ntoy.ccsso.org.
Special thanks to the National Teacher of the Year Program sponsors: Google for Education, Pearson, American Institutes for Research, Cambium Assessment, Curriculum Associates, Data Recognition Corporation, Equitable, ETS, Maxwell Leadership, MetaMetrics, NWEA, Smarter Balanced, Voya, College Football Playoff Foundation, Smithsonian, Space Camp and TEDEd.
Catherine Walker, 2024 Alaska Teacher of the Year
Catherine Walker is a National Board-Certified Teacher who teaches oceanography, marine biology, unmanned aviation science and Project Lead the Way engineering essentials to students in grades nine through 12 at Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska. Walker fell in love with teaching while serving in the Peace Corps in Mali from 2002-2004 as a Natural Resource Management Volunteer. She has taught science and career and technical education classes since 2006 and also sponsors the Battle of the Books, Gender Sexuality Alliance, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean Guardian and National Ocean Science Bowl clubs. Walker also teaches courses for educators new to science at Prince William Sound College. Walker is a member of the Pacific Ocean Educators Network and a board member for the Alaska Society for Technology in Education. Walker has a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Bachelor of Science in biology from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. She completed the Semester of Environmental Science at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and won the Eleanor B. Schick Award for Environmental Excellence from Brandeis University.
She is the Alaska science awardee for the 2015 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. In 2019, Walker earned her National Geographic Educator Certification and attended the National Geographic Education Summit in Washington, D.C. In 2023, Walker was awarded the Alaska Marine Science Outreach Award, the National Science Teaching Association’s Shell Science Teaching Award and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association Teacher Grant. Walker is a 2023 Earthwatch Project Kindle Fellow and a 2023 Lindblad National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow.
Walker’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.
Christy Todd, 2024 Georgia Teacher of the Year
Christy Todd is a music technology teacher who believes every child has a creative superpower. In addition to teaching classes at Rising Starr Middle School in Fayetteville, Georgia, Todd is the founder of her district’s Community for Creativity initiative, supporting schoolwide creation of songs, podcasts, videos, audio books and more, which are released through the school’s recording label, Hall Pass Entertainment. Passionate about building opportunities for all students to create, Todd launched a special music collaboration between fine arts and special education classrooms that has impacted more than 10,000 students over the last 15 years.
Prior to teaching, Todd worked in business development in the nonprofit sector and draws from that experience to build connections between students, colleagues, families and communities. She began her teaching career as a chorus director and still actively conducts honor choirs, along with publishing articles and research for various state, national and international education journals.
Todd’s career recognitions include 2013 Grammy Music Teacher of the Year National Quarterfinalist, 2016 Georgia Middle School Association Teacher of the Year and 2022 Fayette County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. Todd was honored recently as a key youth influencer by the United States Navy’s Blue Angels and had the experience of a lifetime riding in an F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet. Todd received a Bachelor of Music Education from Shorter College and a Master of Music Education from Florida State University.
Todd’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.
Joe Nappi, 2024 New Jersey Teacher of the Year
Joe Nappi graduated from Rowan University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in history. He has taught at Monmouth Regional High School in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, for 18 years. Currently, he teaches United States history to sophomores and a Holocaust, Genocide and Modern Humanity course to seniors. This class is offered through a partnership with Kean University, which has allowed him to take more than 600 students to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where he has been honored to serve as a Museum Teacher Fellow since 2019. He also serves as a Key Club adviser and is a member of the Equity Council and Monmouth Helping its Own, the school’s charitable committee that he co-founded.
Nappi is an Alfred Lerner Fellow with the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, a member of the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education, and district liaison to the Diversity Council at Kean. His lessons and blog have been published by PBS. He has received numerous teaching awards, including the Ida and Jeff Margolis Medallion for Excellence in Multicultural Education, U.S. Navy Distinguished Educator, the Dr. Frank Kaplowitz Human Rights Educator of the Year Award and the Monmouth County Teacher of the Year in 2023.
Daily, he inspires students to “be the change,” which has resulted in their efforts to end human trafficking, infuse Holocaust and genocide education nationwide and raise money for refugee resettlement, just to name a few.
Nappi’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.
Missy Testerman, 2024 Tennessee Teacher of the Year
Missy Testerman served as a first and second grade teacher at Rogersville City School in Rogersville, Tennessee, for three decades before taking advantage of Tennessee’s progressive Grow Your Own initiative and adding an English as a second language (ESL) endorsement. She currently serves as the district ESL specialist and ESL program director. Testerman coordinates the system’s summer programs and is heavily involved in many programs, including being a mentor teacher and member of the teacher leadership team.
Testerman holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and a Master of Arts in reading education from East Tennessee State University (ETSU). She added ESL licensure through Freed-Hardeman University, wanting to ensure that immigrant students and families had an advocate in their rural Appalachian area. Since her selection as Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year, she has forged partnerships with ETSU and the University of Tennessee to encourage pre-service teachers and give authentic feedback to university leaders about their educator preparation programs.
A staunch advocate for students, teachers and families, Testerman considers her most important job to be making certain that her ESL students are prepared to advocate for their limited English proficiency families. She considers her greatest contribution to her profession to be the love and desire for learning that she has instilled in countless students over the past three decades. Seeing her former students succeed in life is the basis of Testerman’s continued desire to educate the next generation and ensure they receive a broadened education while living in a rural setting.
Testerman’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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