National Teacher of the Year

1994 National Teacher of the Year

NameSandra McBrayer

School Information

School Address
Homeless Outreach School ProgramSan Diego, CA
Teaching AreaSelf-contained class
Teaching Level7-12

Washington, D.C. (April 1994) - A combination of perseverance, creativity and compassion has helped San Diego teacher Sandra McBrayer reach hundreds of inner-city homeless children. Those same qualities have earned her the title of 1994 National Teacher of the Year, the oldest and most prestigious teaching honor in the nation.

Chosen from among the nation's more than 2.5 million elementary and secondary school classroom teachers, McBrayer received the traditional crystal apple from President Clinton in a ceremony at the White House and was honored by Secretary of Education Richard Riley at a gala dinner in Washington, DC. At age 33, McBrayer is the founder of the Homeless Outreach School, the first successful classroom in California for homeless and unattended youth.

"Being named National Teacher of the Year is a tremendous honor," said McBrayer, who is the 43rd teacher to earn the title. "As a national spokesperson for education during the next year, I will always remember that I am only one of hundreds of thousands of dedicated teaching professionals. My goal is to increase our nation's awareness of the need for making education a greater priority. I want America to learn about homelessness, which affects more children in the U.S. than anyone realizes. My message will be that every child has the right to an education and the potential to learn."

The National Teacher of the Year Program is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, a nationwide organization comprised of the public officials who head the departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, in partnership with Scholastic Inc.

"In naming a National Teacher of the Year, America honors all teachers who demonstrate daily their dedication and love for the profession," said Gordon Ambach, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. "In a time when the nation, as never before, is focusing on what education must do, Sandra McBrayer is showing that every student -- no matter what obstacles stand in the way -- can succeed."

McBrayer was selected from among the top elementary and secondary school teachers in the nation, the 1994 State Teachers of the Year. Each year a national selection committee, comprised of representatives from the major education organizations, selects four finalists for interviews and subsequently chooses the National Teacher of the Year.

McBrayer teaches seventh through twelfth graders in a store-front school in downtown San Diego. From the window of her classroom she witnesses the harsh realities of life and death on the streets. It was McBrayer's faith in the worth of all children that led her toward a career in teaching.

"I have seen some of my students being beaten, stabbed, shot at, and sold. But I have also walked hand-in-hand with them as they graduated from high school, attended college, and thrived in the work place," said McBrayer. "My greatest contributions and accomplishments are reflected in the survival and successes of my students.

"My teaching philosophy encompasses the whole child," McBrayer said. "To teach is to cooperatively create a community in which all members are equally valued and all members participate as both teachers and learners."

McBrayer's classroom is structured to meed the diverse needs of her students. She gives her students unconditional acceptance. "I do not look at where they are in their lives, but instead help them look at where they can go," said McBrayer.

As the 1994 National Teacher of the Year, McBrayer will serve as an ambassador for education, speaking to numerous business, government, education and civic groups throughout the country. McBrayer says she wants to spread the word that even though she teaches the homeless, the issues facing children and education are universal.

"It doesn't matter whether a child is living in the North, South, East or West, or in an urban or rural community," McBrayer said. "There are kids all over this country who have never been told that they have potential. Many of them will grow up to settle for a job, not a career, because no one has taught them to value themselves or helped them see what they can do."

"American teachers have a great responsibility," McBrayer said. "All children, regardless of background, socioeconomic status, race or age must be taught to believe that they can succeed. It's my mission as a teacher in my California classroom and the larger classroom of our nation to convey they message."

Other finalists for the 1994 National Teacher of the Year are Marjorie West, a first grade teacher at Glennon Heights Elementary School, Lakewood, CO; Francis Mustapha, a teacher of biology at South Side High School, Fort Wayne, IN; and Dodie Burns Magill, a kindergarten teacher at Pelham Road Elementary School in Greenville, SC.

Sandra McBrayer's Thoughts on Teaching.