Sydney Chaffee, 2017 National Teacher of the Year, was the keynote speaker at Honoring a Noble Profession: Celebrating Teachers and Teaching. The annual event is hosted each year by the College of Education and Professional Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma.
More than 400 people attended the fourth annual event celebrating UCO’s 177 teacher candidates who will begin their teaching careers after the holidays.
This inspirational and empowering event is designed to honor educators along with the profession of education, to induct newly certified teachers into the profession, and to recruit future educators. Guests also included leaders from the legislature, state education agencies, and outstanding teachers and school leaders from across the state.
“Every student is a hero,” Sydney Chaffee told the room full of graduates preparing to enter the teaching profession.
“Despite, or maybe because of, all of those myriad challenges that our students face, they all deserve to feel like heroes. As teachers, this is our responsibility and our great privilege.
“We have the power and influence to ensure that every single one of our students feels like a hero. We have the opportunity to help our students through some of the most difficult things they will ever encounter. We have the great honor of telling them every single day, in big ways and little ways, out loud and not out loud, that they matter, that they are important, that they can triumph.”
Chaffee, a high school humanities teacher whose lessons focus on how history and literature intersect, said students set her on fire with learning.
She gave credit to the teachers she had growing up in Saugerties, N.Y., for inspiring her to follow in their paths.
“They made it exciting, and I wanted to learn all the time, so I decided to become a teacher,” Chaffee said.
Chaffee challenged the audience to think of a teacher who influenced their lives. As members of the audience shared their stories they told of teachers who taught them more than just the knowledge their books held.
One shared the story of that one teacher who took a special interest in him as an individual and encouraged him to do his best.
Chaffee said as she helps her students excel in the classroom she wants to participate in a national conversation on how education can be a tool for social justice and empower students to stand up for themselves and create change.
“For me it makes sense to do everything I can to help students and teachers to be leaders,” Chaffee said.
Chaffee, 34, teaches at Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, Mass. Not only was Chaffee the first Massachusetts educator to receive the top award in teaching, she appears to be the first charter-school teacher to win, although a handful of those from alternative, magnet and private schools have received the honor, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers, a professional organization that runs the 65-year-old competition.
The event at UCO was designed to honor educators along with the profession of education, to induct newly certified teachers into the profession and to recruit future educators. It was made possible by UCO’s College of Education and Professional Studies.