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Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Contact:Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Massachusetts Educator Named National Teacher of the Year

Boston charter school teacher Sydney Chaffee is Commonwealth's first ever national winner

MALDEN - The Baker-Polito Administration today shared the Council of Chief State School Officers' announcement that Sydney Chaffee of Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester is National Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Chaffee, who became the 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year in May, is the first National Teacher of the Year from Massachusetts in the award's 65 years of existence. She was in New York City today for the announcement but will return to Massachusetts tomorrow for a 9 a.m. celebration at the Huntington Theater Company.

"We are all incredibly proud of Ms. Chaffee and thrilled to see a member of Massachusetts' strong teaching force represented at the national level," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Ms. Chaffee's commitment to her students and relentless drive to continually improve her teaching is a model for all of us."

"Ms. Chaffee is a gift to her students, her school and the Commonwealth," said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. "We are proud to share her with the nation and congratulate her on this tremendous honor."

"I've met many talented Massachusetts teachers in many schools, and it seems only fitting that a state that has worked to become the leading public education system in the country should also have a National Teacher of the Year," said Education Secretary James Peyser. "I congratulate Ms. Chaffee on her impressive accomplishment."

Ms. Chaffee, a ninth grade humanities teacher, has taught English language arts and social studies at Codman Academy in Dorchester since 2007.

"I'm grateful to the Council of Chief State School Officers for this recognition and opportunity, but I also want to thank everyone who inspires me to be a teacher and a learner," Ms. Chaffee said. "That group includes my family, my colleagues at Codman and across the country, and, most importantly, my students."

"Sydney Chaffee represents the excellence in teaching that I encounter across the Commonwealth. What strikes me most about Sydney is her humility and willingness to try a variety of ways to advance her students' growth. Where others might experience obstacles or feel discouraged, Sydney seeks opportunities to learn from her students and colleagues," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

"We know Boston has dedicated, outstanding teachers, and I am so proud to congratulate Ms. Chaffee on her national award and on her work at the Codman Academy Charter Public School," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "As a Dorchester resident working with a Dorchester school, Ms. Chaffee embodies the strength of our communities and represents the best of Boston."

"Sydney is a poised and courageous speaker, but she is remarkably humble about her work," said Codman Academy Head of School Thabiti Brown. "Her colleagues and students know her value, and now the nation does, too."

Ms. Chaffee, a Dorchester resident, has sought to grow as an educator while remaining in the classroom, and her responsibilities include mentoring student teachers; serving as humanities department chair; coordinating a weekly, student-led, all-school assembly; and co-coordinating Codman Academy's partnership with the Huntington Theatre Company. She believes that all students can learn with appropriate supports and challenges and that education is a transformative tool for social justice.

In 2013, Ms. Chaffee worked as a consultant on EL Education's curriculum design project, collaborating with educators from across the country to write eighth grade English language art curricula. Since their publication, these curricula have been downloaded more than 3 million times and implemented by over 1,000 schools nationwide. Ms. Chaffee is a member of ESE's Teacher Advisory Cabinet and is a Teach Plus policy fellow. She holds a bachelor's degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a master's from Lesley University.

The other three finalists for National Teacher of the Year were Chris Gleason, an instrumental music teacher and band director in Sun Prairie, Wis.; Megan Gross, a special education teacher in San Diego; and Athanasia Kyriakakos, an artist and teacher in Baltimore, Md.

The National Teacher of the Year program, run by the Council of Chief State School Officers and presented by Voya Financial, Inc., identifies exceptional teachers nationwide, celebrates their effective work in and outside of the classroom, amplifies their voices and empowers them to take part in policy discussions at the state and national levels.

Ms. Chaffee will travel to Washington, D.C. this weekend for a week-long celebration with other state teachers of the year. Over the next 12 months, she will travel the country and the world to share her insights and learn from others.

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Last Updated: April 20, 2017
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