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Press Release

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

2017 National Teacher of the Year Launches Year of Service

Contact:Olympia Meolaolympia.meola@ccsso.org202-336-7071

Washington, D.C. (May 3, 2017) -- "All of our students deserve to experience school as a place where they can be transformed and where they can do transformative work," 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee said in her first address after being named Teacher of the Year.

The Boston, Massachusetts teacher on April 27 addressed the 2017 State Teachers of the Year, who assembled in Washington for a week of professional learning and recognition. As the National Teacher of the Year, Chaffee wants to focus on education as a tool for social justice, the value of theatre and the arts and the importance for educators to take instructional risks to reach every student.  

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.  

Chaffee was named 2017 National Teacher of the Year on April 20. Last week, she and her fellow State Teachers of the Year were recognized by the President of the United States in the Oval Office, where the teachers sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing."  

Chaffee will spend the next year traveling the nation to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers and students.  

Below are Chaffee's full remarks to the 2017 State Teachers of the Year, as prepared for delivery. Here is video of Chaffee's speech.  

Thank you all. It is an honor to be here today celebrating teaching and learning with these incredible educators.  

Thank you to the people who motivate and ground me: my family and my friends and colleagues at Codman Academy. Thank you to the Massachusetts delegation and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Most of all, thank you to my students, and to all of our students, for embodying the reasons that being an educator is such an awesome responsibility. We all do this work for you, and with you, because you challenge and inspire us.  

My first teacher was my mother. She went back to college on the same day that I started kindergarten and showed me that education can help people redefine themselves. She proudly identified herself as a feminist and taught me to use my voice to stand up for myself and for others. She read with me-and in front of me-and let me bang out stories and poetry on her electric typewriter when I was in elementary school and helped me understand that words matter.  

I am a teacher today because great teachers like my mother helped me transform my self-perception. They made me believe in the limitless power of my own mind and my ability to make change in the world. Great teachers do this work inside of our public schools across the country every day.  

Schools are places where children can be transformed, and where they can learn to transform the world.  

Schools are social justice greenhouses. Inside of all of our classrooms, we help students plant seeds for a more equitable future. We teach them to build on lessons from the past, to work together, and to use their voices. We teach them that they are part of a community in which every member is necessary to nurture the seeds they have planted.  

Our classrooms reflect the great diversity of our country. Our students represent different races, ethnicities, and home languages. They identify themselves across a wide spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations. They come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and from different countries. Some come into our schools with disabilities or having experienced unthinkable trauma. All enter with dreams and with hope. And it is our job-and our great privilege-to work in close partnership with families and community members to ensure that every single one of our students feels safe, valued, and powerful.  

Teachers are champions for our students. In them, we see more than the labels they carry. We see limitless potential. We see brilliance. We see the sunlight and the water that will bring the future to fruition.  

All of our students deserve to experience school as a place where they can be transformed and where they can do transformative work.  

We stand here today as representatives of the incredible teachers all across this country who take up this challenge with heart, creativity, and fierce determination. I am humbled to have the opportunity to collaborate with so many of these dedicated educators this year, to learn from them, and to advocate for them. Together, we can plant seeds with our students and empower them to create the world that they want to live in.  

Thank you.  

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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.