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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.

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 and funding, 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

2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

Takeru Nagayoshi, 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year — Photo by Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times
Photo by Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times

Takeru Nagayoshi

High School English and Research Teacher

New Bedford High School

New Bedford Public Schools

If you would like to contact Takeru or request a visit to New Bedford High School, please email him at You can follow Takeru on Twitter at @tk_nagayoshi.

Takeru Nagayoshi has spent the last five years teaching English and research at New Bedford High School. He specializes in teaching Advanced Placement courses such as AP Seminar and AP Literature within the school's Academy of Honors, and more than 92 percent of his students passed the AP Seminar exam in 2017 and 2018. A son of immigrants and LGBT teacher of color for an urban public school, Takeru believes in using his personal perspectives to advocate for education equity, social justice, and community-based education reforms. In his classes, he combines high expectations with compassion and radical empathy. He does not take students' wellbeing or family resources for granted and tries to ensure his assignments and extra help sessions are accessible.

Community, for Takeru, takes many forms, from his classroom to his peer groups. "I understand the value of learning amongst and with each other," he said. Outside of school, Takeru has collaborated with Teach For America and Leadership for Educational Equity to launch the Southern New England Alumni Leaders Initiative, an educator development program for TFA alumni and friends. He has also participated in numerous fellowships, including DESE's InSPIRED Fellowship and those offered by Teach Plus and by Harvard Graduate School of Education's Education Redesign Lab.

Takeru is a winner of the Sontag Prize in Urban Education. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in international relations and received his master's degree in education from Boston University.

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

If you received an email that you have been nominated for the 2021 MA Teacher of the Year, please complete an application. Applications are due by February 14, 2020. Before you complete your application please read through the MA Teacher of the Year Overview Download Word Document.

Eligibility Requirements

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. Please see "General Application Instructions" in the attached document which explains how to submit an application for co-teachers.

Teacher of the Year Application Process

Round 1 — Preliminary Application (due Friday, February 14, 2020)

  • Candidate information, four essays, principal's letter of support, photograph provided through the SurveyGizmo application.
  • Semi-finalists will be selected and notified by February 28, 2020

Round 2 — Semi-Finalist Application (due Friday, March 13, 2020)

  • Written task and submission of contact information for two references.
  • Phone conversation with the TOY coordinator.
  • Selected applicants will be notified by March 27, 2020.

Round 3 — Classroom Observations (March 30, 2020 – April 10, 2020)

  • A team from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will conduct classroom observations for selected applicants.
  • Selected applicants will be invited to interview at DESE in Malden, and will be notified by April 17, 2020.

Round 4 — Finalist Interviews (April 20–24, 2020)

  • Interviews with an independent selection committee will be held at the Department in Malden the week of April 20, 2020. For a candidate to be considered a finalist, s/he must go through the interview process.
  • The recommended candidate will have interviews with the Senior Associate Commissioner of the Center for Instructional Support and the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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: February 4, 2020

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.