According to the Council of Chief State School Officers, no one teaches ninth grade humanities—or anything, basically—as well as Dorchester high school teacher Sydney Chaffee, their choice for the 2017 National Teacher of the Year.
Chaffee, 34, has taught at Codman Academy Charter Public School since 2007. She is both the first teacher from Massachusetts and the first charter school teacher to win the award in its 65-year history.
Like past winners, Chaffee will spend a year traveling the country to advocate for teachers and share her teaching philosophy. “For me, education is a tool for social justice,” Chaffee told WBUR. “We arm students to fight for the world that they want, and we arm them to fight for justice.”
“I want my students to understand that they are powerful and that they can make change in the world,” Chaffee told CBS This Morning, stressing the importance of taking risks in the classroom.
Chris Minnich, executive director of the CCSSO, explained their choice by saying, “Sydney believes all students deserve access to a high-quality education, and her approach to teaching demonstrates that belief.”
Governor Charlie Baker chimed in, too, with praise of his own. “We are all incredibly proud of Ms. Chaffee and thrilled to see a member of Massachusetts’ strong teaching force represented at the national level,” he said in a statement. “Ms. Chaffee’s commitment to her students and relentless drive to continually improve her teaching is a model for all of us.”
Chaffee, who has also taught English and social studies, was lauded by colleagues and administrators at Codman Academy for her humility and her belief in her students. “It’s weird, but she can relate to us,” one student told CBS This Morning. “She’s like a tall adult white lady talking to a bunch of black kids.”
Past Teacher of the Year winners have been honored in a ceremony at the White House, but no such ceremony has been scheduled yet, according to the CCSSO.
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