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Dorchester educator is National Teacher of the Year

Sydney Chaffee, a teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School, has been named the 2017 National Teacher of the Year.
Sydney Chaffee
Sydney Chaffee of Boston is the 2017 National Teacher of the Year. Photo: Mass. Department of Education

First, Massachusetts recognized her excellence and now the rest of the country has, too. A Dorchester teacher has been named the best educator in the nation.

Sydney Chaffee, a teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School, received 2017 National Teacher of the Year honors on Thursday. The prize was announced by the Council of Chief State School Officers. 

She is believed to be the first educator from a charter school to receive both the state and national honors.

At Codman Academy, Chaffee teaches ninth-grade humanities. She’s been a teacher there since 2007 and was named Massachusetts 2017 Teacher of the Year last May. Chaffee, 34, was nominated for the national award in January, along with four other educators from Wisconsin, California and Maryland.

In her class at the Dorchester school, Chaffee examines moments of injustice and controversy through history and literature, like the history of Christopher Columbus, the Haitian Revolution in the late 1700s, apartheid in South Africa and whether or not Puerto Rico is a colony.

"I am honored to be the 2017 National Teacher of the Year," Chaffee said in a statement. "In the course of the next year, I hope 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." Chaffee will spend a year traveling the country to represent and advocate on behalf of teachers.

A release from the council noted that Chaffee “looks forward to sharing her belief that educators must take risks — on their students, on each other and on themselves — in order to create powerful authentic learning that will allow students to grow and succeed.”

Mitchell Chester, the Massachusetts elementary and secondary education commissioner, commended Chaffee for representing “excellence in teaching.”

“What strikes me most about Sydney is her humility and willingness to try a variety of ways to advance her students' growth,” he said in a statement. “Where others might experience obstacles or feel discouraged, Sydney seeks opportunities to learn from her students and colleagues."

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