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Educator Recognition Programs

Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program

Each year the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year (TOY) program honors a Massachusetts teacher who exemplifies excellent teaching in the Commonwealth. Beyond celebrating the individual, the program looks at the complex work that is involved in educating all students through highlighting student achievement, commitment to the profession, innovations in education, and teacher leadership. It draws attention to issues of teacher quality and reiterates the importance of the teacher as the single most important school-based factor in improving student outcomes.

If you know outstanding public school teachers, please nominate them to the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year program.

Nominations for 2017 MA Teacher of the Year close Friday, January 22, 2016.

For more information on the MA Teacher of the Year program, please click on the following links.

Program Overview

The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year (TOY) Program began in 1960. Each year the program celebrates Massachusetts teachers who exemplify excellent teaching in the Commonwealth by selecting a teacher who is worthy of representing the positive contributions of teachers statewide.

"Being named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year was meaningful to me not only because it recognized my passion for teaching and learning but also because it was a celebration of public education. During my year of service, I spoke to colleagues across the state and had the opportunity to meet and learn with fellow educators from all parts of the United States. I say that the TOY designation is the "gift that keeps on giving" because new doors continue to open for me in ways I would never have imagined, even now - two years after the end of my official term. I have become increasingly involved in professional organizations, I have been called upon for consulting, I have reviewed textbooks and other educational writing, and I traveled to China as part of an NEA Global Competence program." Kathleen Turner, 2013 MA Teacher of the Year

The Teacher of the Year must also demonstrate:

  • A proven track record of meeting students' needs in order to further student growth and achievement.

  • Instructional leadership in his/her classroom in addition to being a respected member of and contributor to the larger school and district community.

  • Respect for and nuanced understanding of the different perspectives that contribute to high quality education--including those of colleagues, administration, parents, students, and policymakers.

Opportunities for the Teacher of the Year:

  • The Teacher of the Year (TOY) will have the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for the teaching profession, which will include public speaking and writing opportunities. This is a chance for the TOY to share ideas and to learn from others; it is not the expectation that the TOY speaks on behalf of all teachers. Rather, the TOY should reflect an understanding for the various perspectives that exists among teachers. The TOY maintains full time teaching responsibilities.
  • Contingent upon the National program, along with the other states' teachers of the year, the MA TOY attends a 5-day National Teacher of the Year Conference, travels to Washington, DC for a week to participate in numerous recognition activities and meets the President, spends a week at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and after the TOYs official year ends, attends a "Next Steps" Conference in Princeton, NJ.
  • The Massachusetts TOY becomes the state's candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Program. The National Teacher of the Year spends a year out of the classroom traveling across, and out of, the country.
"I always wanted to 'sit at the table' and influence education policy. In addition to being a member of the Governor's Teacher Advisory Group, I was one of three teacher members on the task force of twenty to offer advice on the development of the new Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation system. This was the most intensive, challenging and yet rewarding experience of the year." Dr. Wilma Ortiz, 2011 MA Teacher of the Year

2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee

Sydney Chaffee

Ninth Grade Humanities Teacher

Codman Academy Public Charter School


If you would like to contact Sydney or request a visit to Codman Academy Charter School, please contact her at

Sydney Chaffee is a National Board Certified Teacher with a passion for helping diverse learners grow through authentic, relevant, interdisciplinary curricula. Sydney believes that education is a tool for social justice. It can transform students' self-perceptions and arm them to fight for a more just world. Throughout the school year, Sydney and her students seek to answer big questions: What is justice? How have people resisted injustice throughout history? What power do people have to change the world?

Sydney decided to become a teacher after being inspired by her professors at Sarah Lawrence College, who lit intellectual fires with great books and powerful questions. After earning her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence in 2005, Sydney moved to Boston to become a National Teaching Fellow at Citizen Schools' 8th Grade Academy, where she learned to infuse the hard work of teaching and learning with joy. As part of her work at Citizen Schools, Sydney also coordinated the Boston Public Library's Homework Assistance Program and earned an M.Ed. from Lesley University in 2007.

Since 2007, Sydney has been the ninth grade Humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School. Sydney believes that intelligence is not fixed; all students can learn with appropriate supports and challenges. Her students build literacy skills through a unique partnership with Boston's Huntington Theatre Company that culminates in a play set during a historical era students have studied. Students also internalize and apply what they have learned through collaborative projects, including a mock trial based on South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission and regular class discussions about complex texts.

In addition to teaching, Sydney currently serves as Humanities Department Chair for grades 5–12, Crew Leader of a group of 9th–12th grade girls, and co-coordinator of a weekly all-school Community Circle. For the past five years, she has also worked as a mentor teacher for pre-service teachers from Tufts University and Boston University.

In the spring and summer of 2013, Sydney worked as a consultant on EL Education's curriculum design project, collaborating with educators from across the country to write 8th grade curricular modules. Since their publication, these curricula have been downloaded more than 3 million times and implemented by over 1,000 schools nationwide.

As Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, Sydney looks forward to collaborating with her colleagues across the state, advocating for the profession to be elevated and respected, and continuing to learn from her students.

Nominate a Teacher for Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

"Serving as the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year was not only a great honor, but it also allowed me to find my voice as a teacher leader and advocate on behalf of students, my colleagues, and our profession. In particular, the speaking, writing, and policy skills I developed during my tenure served me very well as I later transitioned to working on education policy in Washington, DC." David Lussier, 2000 MA Teacher of the Year

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education accepts nominations year round for the Teacher of the Year program. The cut-off date for this selection cycle is January 22. Nominations submitted after January 22 will be held until the following year when the teacher will be informed of the nomination.

We recognize that there are amazing public school teachers in all corners of the state. We encourage you to recognize their contributions by nominating them. Anyone (parents, teachers, students, administrators, community members, etc) may nominate a teacher or co-teachers (2 teachers in the same classroom, at the same time, responsible for the same students). Teachers may even apply without being nominated. Once nominated, nominees will receive an invitation to apply and the application materials.

Submit a nomination.

You may also submit a nomination by email, fax, or hard copy.

Please include the following:

  1. Your name, email, and how you know the teacher you are nominating;
  2. The teacher's full name and email;
  3. The teacher's grade level, subject area, school, and district,; and
  4. A statement explaining why you feel the teacher deserves recognition.

Email the nomination to the Educator Recognition mailbox at with the subject, Teacher of the Year Nomination.

Fax the nomination to 781-338-3370

Mail the nomination to:
Teacher of the Year Program
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
ATTN: Deborah Walker
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148

2016 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, Audrey Jackson,
Fifth Grade Teacher, Manning Elementary School, Boston
with Vice President Joe Biden, her husband and Jill Biden.

2016 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, Audrey Jackson, Fifth Grade Teacher, Manning Elementary School, Boston with Vice President  Joe Biden, her husband and Jill Biden.

Application Process and Timeline

"There are many adjectives that I could use to describe my experience as Massachusetts Teacher of the Year but the most fitting would be inspirational. I was inspired by the teachers I met and the passion they have for educating children across the state of Massachusetts and around the country. My journey took me to small towns, college campuses, and the White House. At each stop I learned more about the teaching profession and about myself. In the classroom and as a teacher leader, I will forever draw on the experiences of this past year with the hope of inspiring others to make a difference in the world. It was an incredible honor to be the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year." Jeff Shea, 2015 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

Application Process

Round 1 — Preliminary Application (due Friday, February 5, 2016)

  • Candidate information, four essays, principal's letter of support, photograph
  • Semi-finalists will be selected and notified by February 25, 2016.

Round 2 — Semi-Finalist Application (due March 10, 2016)

  • Written task and submission of contact information for three references
  • Selected applicants will be notified by March 22, 2016.

Round 3 — Classroom Observations (March 24 – April 6, 2016)

  • A team from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) will conduct classroom observations for selected applicants.
  • Selected applicants will be invited to interview at ESE in Malden, and will be notified by April 7.

Round 4 — Final Interviews (April 13 & 14, 2016)

  • Interviews with an independent selection committee will be held at the Department in Malden on Wednesday, April 13.
  • The recommended candidate will have interviews with the Associate Commissioner of Educator Effectiveness and the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.


In order to be eligible, teachers/co-teachers must:

  • Have completed at least four years of teaching experience;
  • Spend the majority of the school day in direct instruction of students;
  • Possess an active and valid Massachusetts teaching license for the subject and grade level taught;
  • Teach in a public school or Department approved adult learning center; and
  • Be a full-time teacher.

Note: Co-teachers must teach in the same classroom at the same time and be responsible for the same students. Each teacher needs to submit an individual candidate information form, resumé, and photograph, but may collaborate and submit one copy for each of the essays.


The preliminary application includes the following:

  • Candidate Information
  • Teacher's resumé;
  • Responses to 4 essay questions;
  • Principal form and letter of support; and
  • Photograph (Recent color head and shoulder shot suitable for publicity purposes)
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
2016-2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year preliminary application overview, including application instructions, essay questions and principal's form
View External Link
Apply to the 2016-2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year program

If you have questions about the Teacher of the Year Program, please email the Educator Recognition mailbox at

Former Massachusetts Teachers of the Year

Last Updated: October 17, 2016
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