Waterbury teacher named teacher of year - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Waterbury teacher named teacher of year

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Jahana Hayes wins teacher of the year in Connecticut. (WFSB) Jahana Hayes wins teacher of the year in Connecticut. (WFSB)

A Waterbury teacher was named teacher of the year in Connecticut.

Jahana Hayes got the surprise of her life on Friday morning when the governor, mayor, police chief and the state department of education commissioner walked inside her classroom.

Hayes has been teaching for 13 years at John F Kennedy High school. She teaches world history, us and African American history

Her Friday started off like any other until Gov. Dannel Malloy and other state leaders appeared at her class.

“I came in with my students and about 30 people from the state department of education, local leaders, politicians, union members came into my classroom,” Hayes said.

Hayes said she had no clue that Malloy was about to name her the 2016 Connecticut teacher of the year.

“I’m guessing I won,” Hayes said as there was a round of applause.  

For her students however, the state honor was no surprise. They told Eyewitness News that she is the “best teacher ever” and loves teaching.  

Hayes grew up in Waterbury and later returned to teach at Kennedy High School.    

“She serves as the Kennedy high school governance chairperson…heads the Soar academic program at Kennedy High School,” Waterbury Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen M. Ouellette said.   

“People ask me all of the time, how do you do this? And I say, you just do it,” Hayes said. “You just do it. You figure it out.”

Hayes managed to beat out more than 100 other teachers from across every school district in the state.

“I was selected as the Waterbury teacher back in June and then the state application was due in August,” Hayes said. “After that, I was told I was a semi-finalist.”

After being presented with flowers and exchanging pleasantries, Hayes was honored with an assembly where she heard from the very students that she’s touched over her 13-year career.   

“She’s a social butterfly…And we all love that about her. She’s a very outgoing person,” one of the presenters said.

Hayes had a message for her students, teaching isn’t just a job. She said she hopes to inspire the next generation to follow in her shoes

“Teachers encounter students at various parts of their journey,” Hayes said. “We have an obligation to help you find your best selves and not give up.”

Hayes will have an even busier school year.  Now she will represent the state at various national forums.  She’ll also be assisting the United States Department of Education meetings. 

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