May 3rd marks the celebration of National Teacher Day, an annual holiday recognizing the contribution of teachers and their important role in shaping the future of the world. In celebration of this, the AALC is highlighting the work of Jahana Hayes, recipient of this year’s National Teacher of the Year award. Working at John F. Kennedy High School in Westbury, Connecticut, Hayes is a social studies teacher who has a long history of inspiring her students.
“Jahana Hayes is a shining example of the exceptional teachers who encourage their students to strive for their dreams and never give up, no matter what card they’ve been dealt,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, when congratulating Hayes for this award on behalf of the NEA’s three million members.
Hayes has been a teacher for thirteen years with eleven of those years being spent in Westbury. She has taught a variety of subjects—from World History and Roots of American Citizenship to African American History—and repeatedly been recognized for her tireless commitment to students both in and out of the classroom. Additionally, she previously served for seven years as the lead teacher for the district’s after-school program, encouraged student participation in local community service activities such as Habitat for Humanity and Relay for Life, and spearheaded an effort to bring more minority teachers into the school district, helping to secure grants for education careers.
Many of things Hayes does might seem as if they go above and beyond the call and duty for a teacher. However, Hayes says that, for her, it stems from prior experience with her own teachers.
“Teachers exposed me to a different world by letting me borrow books to read at home and sharing stories about their college experiences,” said Hayes. “So many things that [teachers do] fall outside of traditional teaching responsibilities. It is those times when I am transformed into an advisor, counselor, confidant, and protector.”
Arthur Ashe also spoke extensively about the importance of education, especially the necessity of staying in school and maintaining a love of learning. In 1971, Ashe was a cofounder of the New York Junior Tennis League, an organization committed to not only teaching tennis, but also emphasizing education, hard work and character development—all beliefs Ashe advocated for and embodied throughout his lifetime. Following his retirement from professional tennis, he devoted a great deal of time to educational initiatives and making sure all children had access to the opportunity to learn, even teaching a course titled “The Black Athlete in Contemporary Society” at Florida Memorial College.
Education provides us with knowledge of the workings of the world, presents us with opportunities that we might not otherwise have, and inspires us to create meaningful change in the world. Teachers like Jahana Hayes are the brave individuals facilitating the learning experience for children around the world each and every day—and for that, they deserve complete recognition.
If you know any teachers or educators who have or are rising above the call of duty, feel free to comment below with their name and story!
To read more about Jahana Hayes, click here.