For Immediate Release
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Contact:Jacqueline Reis 781-338-3115

Commissioner Announces 2017 Teacher of the Year

Codman Academy Charter Public School ninth grade teacher Sydney Chaffee receives state's top educator award

Boston - Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester today announced that Sydney Chaffee, a ninth grade humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, is the 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program is the state's top award for educators and annually recognizes excellence in teaching across the Commonwealth by selecting a teacher who exemplifies the dedication, commitment and positive contributions of educators statewide.

State education officials used the occasion of Tuesday's National Teacher Day to make the announcement. Chaffee, who lives in Boston, is the state's 55th recipient of this award and automatically becomes the state's candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Program.

"Lieutenant Governor Polito and I congratulate Sydney on her outstanding service to her students," said Governor Charlie Baker. "It is teachers like Sydney who make Massachusetts a national leader in education, and I know she will represent us well at the national level."

"Sydney Chaffee is the first charter school teacher to be named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "Her passion for teaching and her dedication to continually learning from her students and colleagues are most impressive."

The selection process for the 2016-17 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year began last fall with a call for nominations from administrators, teachers, students, parents and others. An initial review of each nominated teacher's written application led to the selection of semifinalists, who then submitted additional supporting material. Three finalists were selected and interviewed by an independent review panel of experts, including past recipients of the recognition. That panel then recommended one finalist to be named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year by Commissioner Chester.

The other two Teacher of the Year finalists for this year's award are: Kathryn Contini, a sixth-grade teacher at Blanchard Memorial School in Boxborough, part of the Acton Boxborough Regional School District; and Mary-Margaret Mara, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Chandler Magnet School in Worcester.

Chaffee will join other outstanding educators, including the Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year, the Milken Family Foundation Award winner for Massachusetts, the finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, and Teacher of the year finalists and semifinalists, for an awards ceremony at the State House on June 15, 2016.

"Congratulations, Sydney, on your outstanding accomplishment. You personify excellence by remaining humble and seeking to improve by recognizing that your best feedback is the performance of your students," said state Representative Russell E. Holmes.

"Congratulations to Sydney Chaffee on being named the Teacher of the Year, a distinct honor recognizing not only her success as an educator, but also her commitment to being a lifelong learner," said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "Sydney's expertise and passion for making a positive impact in the lives of students extends beyond the classroom and is helping create the excellent education system we have here in Boston."

"Sydney has a profound ability to unleash students' and colleagues' potential," said Codman Academy Executive Director Meg Campbell.

"Sydney is an unstoppable teaching force for good," said Codman Academy Principal Thabiti Brown. "She has what appears to be an unquenchable desire to learn more and to get better as a teacher and colleague."

About Sydney Chaffee Sydney Chaffee, a National Board certified teacher, grew up in Saugerties, N.Y. She holds a bachelor's degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University. She has taught English language arts and social studies at Codman Academy since 2007. Prior to that, she was a teaching fellow at Citizen Schools' eighth grade academy in Codman Square.

Chaffee has sought to grow as an educator while remaining in the classroom. Her current responsibilities include mentoring student teachers; serving as humanities department chair; coordinating a weekly, student-led, all-school assembly; serving as a "crew leader" for up to a dozen female students; and coordinating Codman Academy's partnership with the Huntington Theatre Company.

Each December, all of her students participate in the national Poetry Out Loud competition, and at the end of each year, all of them perform in a play, regardless of special needs, first language, or stage fright.

Chaffee believes that every choice students make in her classroom is feedback on her work, and she uses that feedback to improve. "As a lifelong learner, I want to model for my students that real learning happens when we humble ourselves to what we don't know, then grow through questioning and collaboration."

Last Updated: May 3, 2016

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