Out of the best teachers from across the country, one in Waterbury has proven to be the best of them all. The 2016 National Teacher of the Year is from a high school in Waterbury.
Everyone at JFK High School had their signs out, phones up and cameras rolling as they welcomed their superstar on Friday.
"I am in awe of the fact that people have no idea what happens in this city and even less of an idea of what happens in this building. They are going to learn today," said Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the Year.
Hayes, a Social Studies teacher, who has been teaching at Kennedy for the past 10 years, beat out the best teacher in every other state in the country to become the National Teacher of the Year.
"I told you I was going to win this," Hayes said.
Her students told Eyewitness News what sets her apart is her personality and her strength. They believe she cares about what they're going through because she has been there herself.
"I feel like she's been through so much stuff in her life, it allows her to connect with students that have been through similar situations. She grew up in a rough neighborhood, she was a teenage mom, and I feel like that aspect of her allows her to relate to all the stuff that we go through," said Allyssa Digiovancarlo, a Kennedy student.
"I know what it feels like when those kids come in here and they have this negative impression of themselves. I know what that feels like and I'm not going to let them leave here like that," Hayes said.
Now that she has been named the national teacher, Hayes will be leaving her classroom for the next year to travel across the country to give speeches, attend policy discussion and bring her perspective to the national table.
Next week she will head to the White House. Hayes said she is still having trouble wrapping her head around meeting President Obama.
"As a history teacher, knowing his mother's story and just the idea that we're connected int he sense that it doesn't matter where you came from or who you are, or who your family it. It doesn't matter," Hayes said.
Though it's still surreal, she said the attention has been incredible for the city she grew up in.
"The energy in this building, the moral in this city is amazing," Hayes said.
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