A Connecticut high school social studies teacher chosen as the National Teacher of the Year said she was surrounded by poverty, drugs and violence as a child but imagined other possibilities for her life with help from educators.
Jahana Hayes teaches at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury.
The honor by the Council of Chief State School Officers was announced on Thursday and Hayes will be recognized by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony on Tuesday.
The 44-year-old Hayes grew up in a Waterbury housing project and became a teenage mother while still in high school. She said the influence of her own teachers taught her that a school's job sometimes overlaps with the job of parents, and she wants her students to know there are no dead ends.
Hayes was named Connecticut Teacher of the Year in October and was honored at an awards ceremony in November at the Bushnell in Hartford.
She has been an educator for 13 years, with the most recent 11 years in Waterbury.
“I am honored to be the 2016 National Teacher of the Year,” Hayes said in a statement. “In the course of the next year, I hope to stoke a national conversation about education that is inclusive of everyone. I want to engage people who have not traditionally been part of the conversation to join in this important effort to prepare well-rounded students for success in life.”
Hayes is the fourth Connecticut educator to be named National Teacher of the Year.
Greenwich teacher Tony Mullin was the 2009 National Teacher of the Year.
LeRoy E. Hay, an English teacher at Manchester High School, was named National Teacher of the Year in 1983 and while Dorothy Hamilton, a social studies teacher at Milford High School had the honor in 1953.