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Teachers Leading through Teacher of the Year Networks

August 18, 2014

Throughout the week, Bill and Melinda Gates are celebrating teachers. Today, Bill is spotlighting Washington State Teacher of the Year Katie Brown. Head to for more. 

Christopher Poulos is a high school Spanish teacher and Teacher-Leader in Residence at the Connecticut Department of Education, where he engages teachers and state leaders together in policy conversations.  

Las Vegas social studies teacher Jeff Hinton is running for public office, focusing on education issues such as class size, graduation rates, and college access. 

Minnesota educator Lee-Ann Stephens supports Latino and African American students enrolled in IB, AP, and honors classes and makes her teacher voice heard through newspaper columns, state senate committee hearings, and Educators 4 Excellence.

Chris, Jeff, and Lee-Ann are all state Teachers of the Year, recognized for their excellence in teaching.  All three are using their experiences and expertise to impact policy—so that their classrooms shape state and national education initiatives, not just vice-versa.

Chris, Jeff and Lee-Ann are also members of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). An outgrowth of the National State Teachers of the Year service organization started in 1980, NNSTOY provides a professional home for state Teachers of the Year, as well as for finalists and alternates.  

NNSTOY focuses on engaging and supporting these 800+ educators in broadly sharing and leveraging their expertise in practice, policy and advocacy.  Their mission?  “To improve student learning across the nation by defining, sharing and advocating for effective teaching practices and policies.”  NNSTOY and its members seek to ensure that all students learn from highly effective teachers.

NNSTOY CEO Katherine Bassett describes the organization as a way to “repay to the field what we received as Teachers of the Year.”  While recognized for their expert classroom practice, state teachers of the year also receive training in policy and advocacy during their state recognition year.  As NNSTOY members, they look to build on their expertise and help other teachers grow as leaders also.

NNSTOY is working on many fronts to make this happen.  They are identifying and creating new types of professional career continuums and distributed leadership models so that teachers are able to stay in the classroom while also leading at the school, district, state or national levels. They are creating new ways for teachers to collaborate, share practices and design resources through efforts such as the Collaborative Center for Teacher LeadershipAnd, they are reaching out broadly to their membership to develop professional standards—or guiding principles—“developed by educators for educators to hold ourselves accountable.” 

NNSTOY’s partners range from the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association Foundation to the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education to technology companies to researchers at ETS and the Center for Education Effectiveness at Pearson.

Teachers of the Year across the country are leading some of the most exciting and cutting edge changes in education we are seeing today.  Take a look at what your state’s Teachers of the Year are up to at the Council of Chief State School Officers website.  

And, to learn more about what makes a Teacher of the Year, take a look at Bill Gates’ post on ELL middle school specialist and Washington State Teacher of the Year Katie Brown.

Throughout the week, Bill and Melinda Gates are celebrating teachers. Head to for more. 
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