AACTE Congratulates 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jerrica Thurman 202-478-4502 or jthurman@aacte.org
Teacher of the year

2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee
Photo: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

(April 21, 2017, Washington, D.C.) – The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) celebrates 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee, the three additional finalists and the colleges of education that helped set them on their distinguished career paths. Chaffee, who is a National Board Certified Teacher as well as the 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, was named to the top national honor yesterday by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

She teaches 9th-grade humanities at the Codman Academy Charter Public School in Boston, her professional home since completing her master’s degree at Lesley University 10 years ago. According to her application for teacher of the year, Chaffee is committed to “infusing the hard work of learning with joy” and to taking risks on behalf of her students. She sees her class as a transformative tool for social justice, empowering students to advocate for change based on lessons from the past through an expeditionary-learning model. “Authentic learning enables students to see and create connections in the world around them,” she says.

Chaffee is also a teacher educator, serving as a mentor to student teachers from nearby universities and as a part-time instructor in Curriculum and Teaching at Boston University. In addition, she chairs her school’s humanities department; serves on the Massachusetts Teacher Advisory Cabinet; is a Teach Plus Commonwealth Teaching Policy Fellow; started a weekly, student-led, celebratory Community Circle for her whole school; and has co-authored popular curricula for EL Education and EngageNY.

“This award is so humbling, because I’m always thinking about how I can be better at this job,” she told CBS This Morning during yesterday’s announcement on the newscast. Chaffee noted that her colleagues do the same, as they are all keenly aware that everyone needs to continue learning and improving. “We have a lot of work to do, but we can achieve so much for kids when we commit—together—to being simultaneously optimistic and daring.”

Chaffee earned her bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College—where she set out initially to be a poet—and her master’s in education from Lesley University.

“Given how many great teachers are in classrooms every day, this recognition is a significant testament to Ms. Chafee’s relentless commitment to her students,” said Jack Gillette, dean of the Graduate School of Education at Lesley University. “We are also proud that her approach reflects [Lesley’s] core values as an institution that prepares teachers: the ability of teachers to promote a more just society through supporting students in the habits of critical inquiry; the power of the arts to open up pathways to deeper learning; and the central role of teacher advocacy and joyfulness in a school community.”

The three other finalists for the 2017 National Teacher of the Year also completed higher education-based teacher preparation programs.

  • Chris Gleason, 2017 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year – A music teacher and band director at Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie, Wisc., Gleason received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–LaCrosse.
  • Megan Gross, 2017 California Teacher of the Year – A special education teacher at Del Norte High School in San Diego, CA, Gross received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis, and her special education teaching credential from California State University Sacramento.
  • Athanasia Kyriakakos, 2017 Maryland Teacher of the YearAn art teacher at Merganthaler Vocational Technical High School in Baltimore, MD, Kyriakakos received her bachelor’s degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art, her teaching certification from Central Connecticut State University, and her master’s degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (IL).

“AACTE congratulates Sydney Chaffee and the other outstanding state teachers of the year, whose leadership we value deeply as a model for the teaching profession,” said Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., president and CEO of AACTE. “We also celebrate AACTE’s member institutions that helped prepare these educators for their essential work.”

AACTE is honored to be a member of the National Selection Committee, which includes representatives from 17 national education organizations that choose four finalists from the state winners, conduct personal interviews with the finalists and ultimately select the National Teacher of the Year.


AACTE: The Leading Voice on Educator Preparation
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education is a national alliance of educator preparation programs dedicated to high-quality, evidence-based preparation that assures educators are profession-ready as they enter the classroom. The over 800 member institutions include public and private colleges and universities in every state, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam. AACTE leads the field in advocacy and capacity building by promoting innovation and effective practices as critical to reforming educator preparation. For more information, visit www.aacte.org.

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