UB Alumna is National Teacher of the Year Finalist

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Jahana Hayes, a graduate of School of Education at the University of Bridgeport (UB), has been named one of four finalists for the 2016 National Teacher of the Year Award and the 2016 State of Connecticut Teacher of the Year.

Hayes teaches high school history at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, Connecticut. She earned her Certificate of Advanced Study at UB in 2014.

The winner of the National Teacher of the Year Award will be selected in April and will be recognized at a White House ceremony by the President of the United States before spending a year traveling the nation to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers and students.

The National Teacher of the Year program, run by the Council of Chief State School Officers and presented by Voya Financial, identifies exceptional teachers in the country, recognizes their effective work in the classroom, and empowers them to participate in policy discussions at the state and national levels.

“It’s an incredible honor for an incredible teacher. Ever since she earned her Six Year Degree at UB, Johana has always exemplified the best in the profession. She is highly dedicated to her students. We are immensely proud of her nomination. We wish her the best,” said Allen Cook, dean of the School of Education at UB.

Every year, exemplary teachers from each state, the U.S. extra-state territories, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity are selected as State Teachers of the Year. From that group, a panel representing 15 renowned education organizations, which collectively represent millions of educators, selects four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year based on a set of criteria.

Specifically, the committee looks at criteria such as in what ways this individual is an excellent teacher, the teacher’s community involvement, recommendations from parents and colleagues, and the teacher’s work to inspire students from all backgrounds.

The National Teacher of the Year is then selected among the finalists after rigorous in-person interviews with the selection committee.

In her application, Hayes cited personal experiences as her reason for becoming a teacher. She is the first in her family to attend college, and gratefully recalls teachers in her life who let her borrow books to read at home. Today, she passes on this work by promoting cultural awareness and developing service learning curriculum for her school and community.

“It is of no benefit to anyone if a student achieves high grades and tremendous academic success if they have no desire or knowledge of how to help others,” she wrote. “Students need role models who are reflective of themselves.”

To that end, she has helped secure grants to promote education as a career, especially minority candidates.

“Excellent teachers have an impact on students that extends beyond classroom walls,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. “They work to ensure every child receives a quality education that will set them on a course for success after graduation. These professionals are educators, engaged citizens, and role models.

“The finalists meet young people where they are, and help to guide them, enrich their lives, and build character,” Minnich continued. “They are outstanding ambassadors for their profession.”

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625, lgeary@bridgeport.edu

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