National Teacher of the Year

1997 National Teacher of the Year

NameSharon M. Draper

School Information

School Address
Walnut Hills High SchoolCincinnati, OH
Teaching AreaEnglish/Language Arts
Teaching Level7-12

Washington, DC - Thursday, April 17, 1997. For more than twenty-five years Sharon Draper has shown her students in the Cincinnati public schools the beauty and power of language and learning. She is the 1997 National Teacher of the Year and was honored by President Clinton in a ceremony at the White House Friday, April 19, which also recognized all the 1997 State Teachers of the Year. At the conclusion of her current school term Ms. Draper will begin a year as spokesperson for education to the nation and the world.

The National Teacher of the Year Program is the oldest and most prestigious awards program to focus public attention on excellence in teaching. Now in its 46th year, the program is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc. The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the Teachers of the Year from the 50 states, five extra-state jurisdictions, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activities by a committee of the 14 leading education organizations in the nation.

"Sharon Draper exemplifies the professional qualities all our teachers must have if our nation is to build education second to none," said Gordon Ambach, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. "She shows us how a great teacher, together with her students, continues to learn and create," said Ambach.

Inspired by the examples of excellent teachers in her school years, Draper entered the profession in 1970. Since 1978 she has taught literature and composition at Walnut Hills High School, Cincinnati Public School's 100-year-old college preparatory High School. "I have learned as I taught, for I feel that an active learner is the best teacher," says Draper. "I want my students to understand that a powerful connection exists between historical and cultural events and the literary creations of the time," says Draper.

"In Sharon's classroom learning is real," said Dr. Ernest Fleishman, Senior Vice President of Education at Scholastic Inc. "Her ability to help students comprehend the complex relationships that exist in the world merits her selection as National Teacher of the Year. Scholastic is proud to sponsor the National Teacher of the Year Program because we recognize how vital the role of teaching is to our nation's future," said Fleishman.

In Draper's classroom students read literature, discuss ideas from books and from world events and they write. "Getting cultural perspective is hard for students unless someone takes the time to show them the links," says Draper. "I tell parents that although I cannot guarantee some Rhodes scholar by the end of the school year, I can guarantee that their child will have improved in their writing skills," says Draper.

Writing is a passion for Draper and she has, to this point, published five books for young people along with many poems and stories. "I started writing with my students and for my students," says Draper. "Everything I become involved with seems to revolve around education and children." She has been honored by the American Library Association with its "Coretta Scott King Genesis Award" and the ALA award for "Best Book for Young Adults." Each year her students receive their own rewards in donning the class-designed "I Survived the Draper Paper" T-shirt commemorating the legendary research project that all her seniors must complete to graduate.

In 1995 Draper was among the first group of teachers to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In that same year she was elected to the Board of Directors of that organization. "Although the National Board cannot singlehandedly transform schools, it can be a significant catalyst for change, says Draper. "Board-certified teachers are given both the responsibility and the opportunity to strengthen and improve the teaching profession." Draper now helps other teachers in Ohio working toward Board Certification in her role as an Associate at the Mayerson Academy for Human Resource Development, Cincinnati's nationally know professional development center.

To Draper teaching is essential and eternal. "Just as Plato instructed Aristotle, who taught countless others, as educators, the cycle of repeated learning and imparted wisdom is our burden and our joy to continue," says Draper. "A child, unlike any other, yet identical to all those who have preceded and all who will follow, sits in a classroom today--hopeful, enthusiastic, curious," says Draper. "The touch of a teacher will make the difference!"

Draper is a graduate of Pepperdine University and has her Master of Arts from Miami University. She is the recipient of the National Council of Negro Women Excellence in Teaching Award and the Ohio Governor's Educational Leadership Award. Her essay, "The Touch of a Teacher," was published by the Center for Policy Research/National Governors Association in What Governor's Need to Know About Education. Draper and her husband, a high school science teacher, have four children.

Other finalists in the National Teacher of the Year program are Jan Mitchell, 1997 Iowa State Teacher of the Year and a teacher of the Language Arts at Marshalltown High School, Marshalltown, IA; Rosalind Hurley Richards, 1997 Kentucky State Teacher of the Year, a fifth grade teacher at Squires Elementary School in Lexington, KY; and George Abshire, 1997 Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year, a grade seven teacher of Mathematics at Jenks East Middle School in Jenks, OK.

Sharon Draper's Thoughts on Teaching