Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year is now in the running for the national honor; one of just four finalists selected from schools around the country.
Waterbury high school teacher Jahana Hayes is in her element in her social studies class.
"She's very conversational, and she likes to have that conversation with you, and that's the best way that I learn,” said Derya Demirel, who is a 9th grade student.
"She's unique. She's really honest. She's not afraid to say what's on her mind,” said 9th grade student Ehtha Boe.
Hayes has been teaching at John F. Kennedy High School for 10 years.
“I really truly believe in what teachers do. I believe in this profession and, you know, there's a little idealism in that and it seems to be working,” she said.
Earlier this month, Hayes was named a finalist for the 2016 National Teacher of the Year. Last October she earned that honor at the state level.
“A lot of people in this school have never, nor will ever, have her as a teacher and I do, so I think I'll be able to look back and think about how privileged I am,” Demirel said.
If selected, Hayes will travel around the country as an ambassador for education, sharing ideas and shaping education policy.
“Whatever happens it's already more than I ever imagined, more than I ever dreamed, so I'm just glad that my students and the teaches in this community get to see that we are all being recognized, that what we do here is good,” Hayes said.
She will go to Washington D.C. at the end of the month to wrap up interviews. A final decision will be made in April.
The other finalists are from Washington, California and Oklahoma. President Barack Obama will recognize everyone at a ceremony in the spring.
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