National Teacher of the Year

2002 National Teacher of the Year

NameChauncey Veatch

School Information

School Address
Coachella Valley High SchoolThermal, CA
Teaching AreaSocial Science
Teaching Level9-12

California Social Studies Teacher Named National Teacher of the Year

"I tell my students that our class is like a wagon train heading out across this great expanse of learning to reach our education. No one will be thrown overboard; no one will be left behind. Together we are all going to get there."

Washington, D.C. - Each day that Chauncey Veatch is in his classroom, two themes dominate his instructional philosophy: literacy and dreams. "Literacy leads to success in school, success in a career, and success in life," said Veatch, a social studies teacher at Coachella Valley High School in Thermal, California, a neighboring town of Palm Springs. "A literate person will have more options in life and a greater likelihood of becoming a lifetime learner."

For these beliefs and helping his students feel constantly engaged in learning, Veatch was named 2002 National Teacher of the Year by President George W. Bush during a Rose Garden ceremony on April 24, 2002. Also recognized at this event were the 2002 State Teachers of the Year.

The National Teacher of the Year Program is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Scholastic Inc., the global children's publishing and media company. The program focuses public attention on teaching excellence and is the oldest and most prestigious awards program for teachers. Veatch, the fifty-second National Teacher of the Year, will begin a year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for education on June 1, 2002.

Part of Veatch's teaching mission is to be "a dream-maker for my students, not a dream-breaker."

"Most of my students come from families of modest economic means, but their parents have the same dreams for them as parents everywhere," he said. "To dream is to be filled with hope. I know this because I see the faces of hope daily." Ninety-nine percent of Coachella Valley High School's students are Hispanic; nearly the same percentage come from migrant families, and one-third of Veatch's own students are receiving special education instruction. All of this has reinforced in Veatch his belief that improving education can't happen without really knowing students. For example, his classes begin with a review of what is going on in the lives of the students, with each presentation being followed by a round of applause.

"Most of my students come from families of modest economic means, but their parents have the same dreams for them as parents everywhere. To dream is to be filled with hope. I know this because I see the faces of hope daily."

That belief is not only experienced in Veatch's classroom but in, as he describes it, the "full court press" of community involvement that he shares with students nearly every weekend. Activities in which they have participated include passing out leaflets in the migrant labor camps about health issues and developing a literacy buddy program with third-graders at two elementary schools.

Since coming to Coachella Valley High School in 1999, Veatch has reestablished the California Cadet Corps, which had not been active at the school since the 1970s, yet was something the community wanted to be reinstated, said Richard Alvarez, CVHS immediate past principal. The Corps is a leadership- and citizenship-development program for California junior and senior high school students, which includes education on the military and the role of an armed forces in a democracy. As a retired U.S. Army colonel, Veatch took on this task with enthusiasm, starting with 34 students the first year. The next year he developed an innovative approach by integrating the courses into the academic social studies curriculum in line with state frameworks and standards. This has increased enrollment even more.

Alvarez describes Veatch as a gentleman and team player who has transformed the school and community with his presence.

"There is no doubt in my mind, heart and soul that when I met Chauncey Veatch, I met an individual whom I knew I was going to call my friend," Alvarez said. "Always kind and courteous, he has a sincere concern for the children of our community and a positive attitude. Believing our students can succeed is not a desire or a facade but is actually something he lives. This caring can be seen in his eyes, heard in his voice, felt in his presence and mostly seen in his actions."

Alvarez also points out that Veatch's influence extends well beyond school hours, saying, "His connection with students and the community is in his heart. He understands the culture very well and has become a part of the community through his acceptance and sincerity, and for being genuine. His ability and desire to speak and communicate in Spanish is out of respect and understanding, and is not forced or is something he feels he must do. He attends most of the local community events, such as Cinco de Mayo celebrations, Christmas parades and the tamale festival."

One of Veatch's migrant students, Luiz Mendoza, describes how well Veatch can relate to such students, saying, "I work with my family around Bakersfield until November. But Mr. Veatch saved me a place in his class and spent hours with me helping me to catch up. He does this for all of his migrant students."

Mendoza also said, "His goal for us is literacy, but he gives us all much more. Mr. Veatch sets high standards and helps us to reach them, and helps us achieve our dreams. My dream is to one day be an ambassador for the United States. Maybe I can be an ambassador to one of the countries I read about in a big book (about European royal palaces) that Mr. Veatch gave me."

Veatch was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, on March 8, 1948, and graduated from the American High School in Frankfort, Germany.

He earned his bachelor's degree in history in 1970 from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and a doctorate in jurisprudence from the University of Notre Dame in 1975.

While living in the Coachella Valley, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army infantry and the medical services corps for 22 years, retiring in 1995. During those years he had assignments in Spain, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Paraguay and Peru. He studied Spanish at the military's Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and the Octavio Paz Center for Latin American Studies in Guadalajara, Mexico.

A brother who also teaches encouraged Veatch to join the profession. During his first three years of teaching from 1995 to 1998, he earned his social studies teaching credential by taking evening and weekend classes at Chapman University in Palm Desert, where he lives.

Besides his three years at Coachella Valley High School, Veatch taught seventh and eighth grade students at John Kelley School, a kindergarten through eighth grade school also in Thermal, from 1995 to 1999. Since 1995 he has taught English as a Second Language and citizenship classes at the evening Adult Education School, part of the Coachella Valley Unified School District. Along with social studies classes, Veatch teaches a ninth-grade career preparation course as well as the Cadet class.

The other 2002 National Teacher of the Year finalists are Marian Galbraith, a reading and language arts teacher at West Side Middle School in Groton, Connecticut; Henry L. Brown, III, a mathematics teacher at Hallandale Adult Community Center Alternative High School in Hallandale Beach, Florida; and Tracy Callard, a fourth-grade teacher at Horace Mann Foreign Language Magnet Elementary School in Wichita, Kansas.

View the complete candidate application for Mr. Veatch.