Who is the 2015 National Teacher of the Year?
By Ronald W. Holmes, Ph.D.
Vice President/ Education Editor
The National Teacher of the Year program started in 1952 and is the oldest and most prestigious national honors program. It focuses public attention on excellence in teaching and is operated by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Now that the selection has been made, the critical questions to be asked are: Who is the 2015 National Teacher of the Year? What career path influenced Shanna Peeples’ to become a teacher? What does President Barrack Obama say about the value of learning?
President Barrack Obama honored Shanna Peeples as the 2015 National Teacher of the Year at the White House. Peeples teaches AP English, serves as department chair and instructional coach at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas. Prior to becoming a teacher, which she says chose her, Peeples worked as a disc jockey, medical assistant, pet sitter and journalist. Before working at the high school level, she taught 7th grade English Language Arts for about six years.
Having the opportunity to influence and teach a majority of economically disadvantaged students who are refugees from countries such as Somalia and Iraq, Peeples said, “My students, survivors of deep and debilitating trauma, have shaped the kind of teacher I am. They have taught me to never make a promise I can’t keep because so many already have learned to see the world through suspicious eyes. To be the best teacher to them, I have to remember this and honor their background. I remember so I can gain their trust because I want them to read and write their way out of where they are.” As part of her professional growth and development, peoples holds an Associate Arts in Liberal Arts from Amarillo College, a Bachelor of Arts in English from West Texas A&M University and a Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington.
As an example of making learning meaningful to real-life situations, Obama said, “Shanna realized what she was always meant to do in helping young people discover the joy and power of words. As somebody who grew up in a violent home, writing and reading books meant everything to her. They were an escape and a comfort, a never-ending source of inspiration, a way to provide meaning to life at difficult times.
One special teacher, she says, Mrs. Belton, helped her develop passion. She taught me that it was possible to read and write my way into another life. That’s a pretty good description of education in general. Today, Shanna passes that same lesson on to her teachers and students. In their writing circles, students pour their personal stories onto the page, and Shanna tells them everyone has a voice; everyone has a story worth sharing. They discover that their experiences aren’t so singular: whether they’re an Ethiopian refugee or they’ve never set foot out of Texas; they’re not so different and they’re not so alone, as a consequence.
We congratulate Shanna Peeples for being named National Teacher of the Year. Over the next year, Peeples will travel nationally and internationally as an advocate and spokesperson for the teaching profession. We wish her the very best.
Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of nine books, “Education Questions to be Answered,” “Current Issues and Answers in Education,” “How to Eradicate Hazing,” “Professional Career Paths,” “Your Answers to Education Questions,” “How to revitalize the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.” “Completing the Dissertation: Tips, techniques and real-life experiences from Ph.D. graduates,” “Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Careers for Children” and Jacob’s Dream, A Story of Animals in Africa. He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org