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CCSSO Announces Finalists for 2022 National Teacher of the Year

CCSSO Teacher of the Year Finalists

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has announced four exemplary educators from across the country as finalists for 2022 National Teacher of the Year, all of whom have been prepared for teacher education by AACTE member institutions:

  • Autumn Rivera, the 2022 Colorado Teacher of the Year, is a sixth-grade science teacher who encourages students to make a difference now, rather than waiting until they are adults. Her students raised funds to help save a local lake from development and conserve it as a state park. Rivera holds a Bachelor of Arts in biology and a Master of Arts in Teaching in secondary science from Colorado College, and a Master of Arts in educational leadership from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Learn more.
  • Whitney Aragaki, the 2022 Hawai‘i Teacher of the Year, teaches high school science using cultural and place-based activities to engage students. She also works to provide equitable access to environmental science and computer science courses statewide. Aragaki has a Master of Science in tropical conservation biology and environmental science from the University of Hawai‘i and currently is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy with a focus in curriculum and instruction at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa College of Education. Learn more.

  • Kurt Russell, the 2022 Ohio Teacher of the Year, teaches high school history and emphasizes cultural relevance and diverse representation in the curriculum. He co-founded a Black Student Union at his school, leading to positive impacts for both students of color and white students. Russell received his Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history and a minor in Black studies from the College of Wooster. He obtained a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from Ashland University and continues to take courses in child development at Oakland City University. Learn more.
  • Joseph Welch, the 2022 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, teaches eighth grade U.S. history. He leverages technology to foster opportunities for students to access and creatively tell diverse stories from their communities and our nation’s past. Welch holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, Bachelor of Arts in history, and Instructional Technology Specialist Certification from Duquesne University. He earned a Master of Arts in teaching from California University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned his Pennsylvania principal certification. Learn more.

CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program identifies exceptional teachers across the country, celebrates their work in and outside the classroom, and, through one-of-a-kind professional development opportunities, helps them amplify their voices and empowers them to take part in policy discussions at the state and national level.

AACTE is a proud member of the National Teacher of the Year Selection Committee and applauds each finalists for their commitment to the profession and meeting the needs of all students, as well as the AACTE member institutions that have contributed to their success.

CCSSO will announce the selected 2022 National Teacher of the Year later this spring. Thereafter, the 2022 National Teacher of the Year will spend the next year serving as an ambassador for education and an advocate for all teachers and students

For more information about the National Teacher of the Year Program, visit the National Teacher of the Year webpage.


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Katrina Norfleet

Content Strategist, AACTE