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University Of Bridgeport Grad Is Finalist For National Teacher Of The Year

Jahana Hayes, with Superintendent of Schools Kathleen M. Ouellette, is a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.
Jahana Hayes, with Superintendent of Schools Kathleen M. Ouellette, is a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. Photo Credit: Waterbury Schools

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- A history teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury and a University of Bridgeport graduate has been named a finalist for the 2016 National Teacher of the Year Award.

Jahana Hayes, who was named Connecticut Teacher of the Year in October, is one of four finalists announced by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

“It’s an incredible honor for an incredible teacher. Ever since she earned her Six Year Degree at UB, Jahana 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.

Hayes earned her Certificate of Advanced Study at UB in 2014.

"Connecticut's teachers are changing lives each and every day," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said. "When one of our finest educators is recognized on a national scale, it’s exciting."

Hayes attributes part of her success as a teacher to the fact that she can readily relate to her students. As she says, “I am that urban child.”

She is particularly proud to have spear-headed and effort to write a successful grant proposal with Dr. Tucker and Louise Brown for a $25,000 planning grant to recruit minority staff to the Waterbury School District.

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. She now 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,” Hayes wrote in her application. “Students need role models who are reflective of themselves.”

Hayes is the current chair of the SOAR Review Board at Kennedy and of the Kennedy School Governance Council.

Her community involvement includes: Helping Out People Everywhere (HOPE), Relay for Life, Walk for Autism, Cancer Awareness Walk and Habitat for Humanity.

The 2016 National Teacher of the Year will be announced in April. The winner will spend a year traveling the nation to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers and students. The winner will be recognized at a White House ceremony by President Barack Obama.

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