By Maddy Vitale
Four teachers have been selected as finalists for the 2018 National Teacher of the Year. One of them is New Jersey Teacher of the Year, Ocean City High School American Sign Language teacher Amy T. Andersen, Council of Chief State School Officers announced Thursday.
This is the first time since 1972 that a New Jersey teacher has been a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.
“I am truly humbled to have been named a finalist for National Teacher of the Year, and I am proud and honored to represent the fantastic teaching taking place across New Jersey,” Andersen said in a state release. “I believe all children deserve to have a voice, no matter how different, whether signed or spoken, and a way to express that voice. I am excited to have this opportunity to bring attention to American Sign Language, deaf culture and the global benefits of being bilingual.”
Andersen, named New Jersey’s 2017-18 Teacher of the Year, was selected in October from 21 county finalists. Now, she and three other teachers, are being considered for the top honor.
New Jersey Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington said, “On behalf of the entire education community of New Jersey, I want to congratulate Amy on this remarkable honor. Amy is receiving national acclaim for the life-changing impact she has had on her students, and her dedication to not only teach but empower children in her community.”
Ocean City is one of only a handful of districts in the state that offer American Sign Language (ASL) as a world language for hearing students. Andersen, of Cape May Court House, taught in Boston before moving back to Cape May County in 2004 and starting as a special-education teacher at Ocean City High School. That same year, the district started its ASL program with about 40 students. The next year, more than 130 students had signed up. Over the years, several students have decided to pursue careers in teaching the deaf.
“Amy T. Andersen, has devoted her professional career to creating a classroom environment that ensures that each student finds their voice, finds their passion and finds their path in making the school and community all that much better,” said Ocean City Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor. “Ms. Andersen has single-handedly grown the American Sign Language (ASL) Program into both one of the most popular Ocean City High School academic programs and into an exemplary world language program for the region and state.”
Taylor also remarked that Andersen is an outstanding educational leader. “I am very proud of Amy and all that she has achieved both in and out of the classroom. As one of the 2018, National Teachers of the Year finalists, Ms. Andersen will serve as a spokesperson for how the teaching profession can truly influence the views and actions of the next generation,” Taylor said. “She has empowered many of our Ocean City students to discover how they will make their own difference in the world. Now, Amy has the opportunity to reach and inspire students across the nation.”
The State Teacher of the Year serves as a spokesperson and advocate for the teaching profession. The National Teacher of the Year program, run by the Council of Chief State School Officers, identifies exceptional teachers nationwide, celebrates their effective work in and outside of the classroom, amplifies their voices and empowers them to take part in policy discussions at the state and national levels.
In addition to Andersen, the other finalists for the 2018 National Teacher of the Year are as follows:
Kara Ball, 2018 Department of Defense Education Activity Teacher of the Year
Jonathan Juravich, 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year
Mandy Manning, 2018 Washington Teacher of the Year
Upon selecting the four finalists, the committee for National Teacher of the Year released the following statement:
“The four finalists for the 2018 National Teacher of the Year stand at the intersection of policy, advocacy and practice. They exemplify the highest levels of teaching, innovation, and leadership, and have demonstrated a commitment to students and public education,” the release states. “These State Teachers of the Year capture the spirit and passion of America’s teachers. Any of them would do an outstanding job as the profession’s ambassador.”
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 national selection committee representing 14 renowned education and community organizations, which collectively represent millions of educators, selects four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. The National Teacher of the Year is then selected from the four finalists after rigorous in-person interviews with the selection committee.
Each year, since 1952, the President of the United States has recognized the National Teacher of the Year in a White House ceremony in the spring.