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Each year, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) proudly shines a spotlight on exceptional educators across the United States through the State Teachers of the Year program. This initiative not only acknowledges the tireless efforts of teachers but also celebrates their unwavering commitment to fostering a positive and impactful learning environment. In 2023, the finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award exemplify the remarkable achievements and contributions of educators from diverse states and territories.

teacher of the year 2023

The National Teacher of the Year Program

CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program is a prestigious initiative that identifies exceptional educators from across the country. Celebrating their work both inside and outside the classroom, this program offers a one-of-a-kind professional development opportunity. The 2023 cohort, comprising 55 outstanding educators, undergoes a rigorous selection process, with the National Teacher of the Year selection committee choosing finalists based on their significant contributions to education.

The Finalists

Harlee Harvey – Alaska Teacher of the Year

Harlee Harvey, a first-grade teacher in Alaska, has earned recognition for her innovative approach to education. Harlee authentically integrates the local Alaska Native Iñupiaq culture and knowledge systems into her lessons, creating a unique and enriching experience for her students. Her commitment to cultural inclusion sets a high standard for educators nationwide.

Carolyn Kielma – Connecticut Teacher of the Year

Carolyn Kielma, a high school science teacher in Connecticut, goes beyond the curriculum to create an inclusive environment where all students feel valued, accepted, and treated with equity. She provides a trusted adult ear for students who need help, fostering not only academic growth but also emotional well-being. Carolyn’s dedication exemplifies the profound impact teachers can have on the holistic development of their students.

Jermar Rountree – District of Columbia Teacher of the Year

Jermar Rountree, a preschool through 8th-grade physical education and health teacher in the District of Columbia, emphasizes the importance of teaching mental health along with physical wellness. His commitment extends to involving family and community in all aspects of schooling, promoting a collaborative approach to education that extends beyond the classroom walls.

Kimberly Radostits – Illinois Teacher of the Year

Kimberly Radostits, a secondary Spanish teacher in Illinois, leads by example through her mentoring program for students and co-direction of a New Teacher Academy. Her dedication to supporting both students and colleagues sets a strong precedent for fostering a supportive and collaborative educational community.

Rebecka Peterson – Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

Rebecka Peterson, a high school math teacher in Oklahoma, is on a mission to make math exciting, relevant, and accessible to all. In addition to her classroom responsibilities, she administers the “One Good Thing” blog, which chronicles positive stories from her classroom. Her passion for storytelling underscores the transformative power of education.

The Winner – Rebecka Peterson

Rebecka Peterson, the 2023 National Teacher of the Year, is a math teacher with a profound love for stories. Over 11 years at Union High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Rebecka’s journey includes a transformative first year that inspired her to stay in the profession. She has contributed 1,400 posts to the “One Good Thing” blog and has visited teachers across Oklahoma, highlighting their crucial work through the Teachers of Oklahoma campaign.

Rebecka Peterson’s Vision for Education

As the National Teacher of the Year, Rebecka plans to use her platform to share stories of the positive experiences in classrooms across the country. She believes that highlighting the joy in teaching will inspire current educators and attract new talent to the profession. Rebecka, a proud immigrant of Swedish-Iranian descent, emphasizes the importance of creating a supportive and accessible classroom for students, drawing from her own experiences as a student. 

Data Insights: A Deeper Look into the 2023 Teacher Profiles

As we delve into the spreadsheet detailing the 2023 State Teachers of the Year, fascinating patterns and trends emerge, providing valuable insights into the diverse landscape of American education. Notably, English Language Arts (ELA) stands out as a dominant subject area, with teachers across multiple states dedicated to fostering language proficiency and literary skills.

The data also illuminates a strong emphasis on mathematics, showcasing educators’ commitment to making this subject exciting and accessible. A notable trend is the prevalence of multi-subject expertise, with teachers like Dana Miles in Washington and Capri Bell Salaam in Arkansas, highlighting a broader spectrum of teaching proficiency.

Moreover, the diversity of specializations within the teaching profession is evident, ranging from instrumental music to Air Force JROTC. The inclusion of world languages, as demonstrated by Kimberly Radostits in Illinois and Fabiana Parker in Virginia, reflects the changing landscape of education, emphasizing cultural inclusivity.

Beyond traditional subjects, the finalists showcase expertise in sciences and special education, highlighting the dynamic and inclusive nature of American education. This geographic spread and diverse skill set collectively contribute to a rich and vibrant tapestry that shapes the future of education in the United States.

The State Teachers of the Year for 2023 exemplify the dedication, innovation, and passion that educators bring to their classrooms every day. As we eagerly await the announcement of the 2023 National Teacher of the Year, these teachers serve as beacons of inspiration, reminding us of the profound impact teachers have on the lives of their students and the future of education. Their stories illuminate the transformative power of education and the vital role teachers play in shaping the minds and hearts of the next generation.