15 Incredible Teachers Who Made Our May

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This article is one in a series at The 74 which profiles the heroes, victories, success stories and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.
May is the month to celebrate teachers like Jahana Hayes. A history teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in her hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, this year’s National Teacher of the Year grew up dreaming of becoming an educator, but when she became pregnant at the age of 17, she said she assumed her dreams were dashed.
But it was her teachers who stepped in and encouraged her to continue with her schooling. Now, with her recognition on the national stage, Hayes provides the same encouragement to students across the country.

Hayes’ award was the highlight of this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week. She was honored at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, where she spoke about the need to recruit more teachers of color. She also advocated for a shift from focusing on problems to spotlighting solutions. “I really think that we need to change the narrative, change the dialogue about what teaching is as a profession,” she told those in attendance. “We’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years talking about the things that are not working. We really need to shift our attention to all the things that are working.”
Her inspiring speech reminded us of some of the other teachers we’ve celebrated at The 74 this year: The 102-year-old teacher lovingly dubbed Granny by her students, the auto shop teacher who gave his student, a single mother, a car, the Memphis teachers who walk their students home after school, and the Georgia kindergarten teacher that thwarted an abduction from the school playground.
But great news about great teachers is published every day. These 14 stories about teachers made us cheer, and we hope they move you too:

May 23: Ohio high school teacher gives graduation gifts to 87 students — English teacher Sinita Scott launched an online fundraiser for her generous idea and then hit the stores to shop for the celebratory presents. The gifts were small, around $10 each but included a personal, heartfelt letter to her Robert A. Taft Information Technology graduates. (Read more: Cincinnati.com)

May 13: New Jersey English teacher wins Jeopardy Teachers Tournament — Jason Sterlacci won $100,000 at the two-day finals held in Washington, D.C. He will go on to compete in the game show’s Tournament of Champions along with other top winners from the year. Sterlacci is an English teacher at Burnet Middle School in Union. (Read more: NJ.com)

May 13: Wisconsin kindergarten teacher celebrates 50 years of teaching — Students and the community threw a surprise party for Stannye Meads, who has been teaching in Clintonville for 50 years, the last 25 of which have been spent at Rexford-Longfellow Elementary School. She says she fell into teaching unintentionally and has no plans to retire. (Read more: FOX 11)

May 19: Science teacher who gave up medicine for education named Georgia Teacher of the Year — After breaking the record for highest exit exam score for biology majors at his college, Casey M. Bethel planned to become a surgeon. But while in graduate school, he discovered his love for teaching. He switched gears and is now a science teacher at New Manchester High. Bethel still pursues his love of medicine during his summer breaks, performing research with the Georgia Intern Fellowship for Teachers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he’s on the hunt for cures for inherited glaucoma and Alzheimer’s disease. (Read more: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
May 23: New York high school teacher launches college scholarship fund for refugee students — After Brian Huskie served in Iraq in 2004 with the New York National Guard's 27th Infantry Division, he began teaching at Albany High School. He also helps many refugees in his work with English language learners.

Now, he’s starting a scholarship fund to help the refugee students to attend University at Albany. Huskie’s goal is to establish a $25,000 endowment. (Read more: Times Union)
May 11: Maryland STEM teacher customizes her class to build lessons around her student’s passions — At the beginning of every school year, Julie Harp conducts a survey of her Easton Middle School students’ interests. Then, she takes the list and creates science lessons based on those interests. This year, the students solved a fictitious crime by collecting and analyzing evidence. (Read more: U.S. News)

May 13: Ohio teacher celebrates 90th birthday and seven decades in the classroom — When Martha Cook was a little girl, she started learning in a one-room schoolhouse. Now, she teaches English as a second language online. Her career has included stints as an elementary and high school teacher as well as a college professor. In addition to her birthday and teaching milestones, Cook and her husband will mark 67 years of marriage on June 5. (Read more: The Repository)

May 6: New Jersey elementary teacher writes encouraging messages on desks — When Chandni Langford’s fifth-grade students walked into her classroom the week of testing, they were greeted with encouraging messages. But they weren’t written on the chalkboard or pinned to the bulletin board. They were written directly onto the desks. Langford’s messaging made an impact on student Julia Gomez who said, "When I read the message, my fear went away.” (Read more: AP)

May 3: ‘Hamilton’ star honors teacher he says saved his life — When Anthony Ramos’ plans to play baseball in college crumbled, his New Utrecht theatre teacher was there to guide him in a new direction. Sara Steinweiss helped him fill out an application for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and even paid his $50 application fee. Her generosity paid off in spades. Ramos is now one of the stars of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, playing the dual roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton. Meanwhile, the theatre program at New Utrecht had its budget cut in 2011, leading to Steinweiss’ resignation. So this month Ramos took his newfound star power to the city council, where he spoke passionately about how important the arts are for schools. (Read more: New York Teacher)
May 10: Pennsylvania community raises funds for teacher carjacked on her lunch break — A York County teacher was on her way back from grabbing an iced coffee when she spotted two unaccompanied dogs running in the road. She stopped to rescue them, but as they scurried off, her car was stolen. The teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous because she believes the suspects are gang members, only had liability insurance on her car, which was totaled by the carjackers. The community is stepping up to help replace her car, raising more than $7,420 so far at GoFundMe. (Read more: PennLive)

May 6: North Carolina second graders donate lemonade stand funds to teacher’s sick dog — Root Elementary teacher Jennifer Marion is passionate about dog rescue. Her latest rescue, a bulldog named Pearl, has a pancreatic disorder that required the dog to be admitted to N.C. State Veterinary School’s ICU for 10 days. Five of her second grade students rallied together to set up a lemonade stand, which raised $120 for the sick pup. An additional $7,910 has been raised by the community on GoFundMe. (Read more: WNCN)
May 2: Retiring Indiana teacher gets surprise farewell party — After 36 years of teaching, Sandy Snyder is retiring. This month, 200 former students, family and friends gathered to honor the 75 year old teacher with a surprise party. Snyder says she plans to travel, enjoy her garden and watch her grandchildren grow. (Read more: The Journal Gazette)

May 2: New Hampshire math teacher honored for saving children from smoke-filled apartment — Raji Gupta was driving through the West Side neighborhood of Manchester when he noticed an apartment complex on fire. He stopped and raced in to assist residents, carrying two children in two separate trips up and down flights of stairs. He was honored this month at the New Hampshire Union Leader Hero Awards, which honors the state’s residents who risk their lives for others. (Read more: Union Leader)
May 5: Michigan elementary teacher becomes a U.S. citizen — Originally from Bulgaria Margarita “Margo” Wilson moved to the United States when was 18, after her mother married the coach for the U.S. national baseball team. Soon after, she became interested in teaching and is currently on leave from her job as a fourth grade teacher at Vowles Elementary School. Wilson is looking forward to casting her first vote as a U.S. citizen this November. (Read more: The Morning Sun)

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