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National Teacher of the Year Talks Evaluations, Ranking Schools, and Giving Back

Jahana Hayes spoke at a pep rally in her honor at John F. Kennedy High School after being named National Teacher of the Year.

History teacher Jahana Hayes spoke at a pep rally in her honor at John F. Kennedy High School after being named National Teacher of the Year.

“There’s this common misconception that teachers don’t like evaluation, and that’s not accurate at all,” National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes told WNPR’s Lucy Nalpathanchil.

In an interview yesterday on Where We Live, Hayes touched on many aspects of her teaching career at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, her experiences growing up, and what it’s been like to be thrust onto the national stage. A long list of news outlets have featured Hayes and her inspiring story since she was named National Teacher of the Year earlier this month, however Nalpathanchil also probed into Hayes’ thoughts on current education policies and issues.

Evaluations must be fair
On the subject of teacher evaluation, Hayes said that teachers like feedback, want to reflect, and value entering into dialog with their evaluators. “I think where the problem comes in, is when those conversations become punitive,” she said.

It’s one thing when administrators work with teachers to help them grow and learn to better support their students. However, when administrators “come into a class and in a snapshot rank a teacher’s teaching on what they saw in 5, 10, 15 minutes, that’s the part, I think, that’s unfair,” Hayes said.

She added, “I think it needs to be a lot more reflective and a lot more ongoing dialog needs to occur.”

Ranking schools hurts students
Asked about state lists that rank schools and label some as failing, Hayes said that teachers are able to have perspective on that labeling because they know where the numbers come from. “But I think it’s so demoralizing for the students who have given it their all and put in one hundred percent of what they have, and then they see their school ranked at the bottom of those lists, based on their test scores.”

She added, “I  think those lists do more to hurt students and families.”

Hayes said, “When we make those lists they don’t really show all of the other things that are going on.” Which is why she’s so excited that her students have been able to see their work recognized by a national audience due to her selection as National Teacher of the Year.

Giving back
“Community service is a big part of what we do, and it’s not something that’s ranked on one of those lists,” Hayes said. For her students to see that people around the country value community service “even though it’s not reflected in students’ test scores or in the ranking of our school, they learn it’s important to who they are as global citizens.”

Hayes’ students took on an Earth Day neighborhood clean-up project this year. Despite the pouring rain, students told her, “I don’t want to leave. We have to finish this!”

Especially for students who aren’t getting the highest grades and being celebrated academically, Hayes said that engaging in community service provides them with a way to become leaders in their community.

“A lot of my students have been on the receiving end of aid for so long. There’s a little bit of shame that comes with that,” Hayes said. “I tell my students that their gift is in their giving. It doesn’t’ matter how much money you have or where you come from—and they actually see that. With many of the projects we do in our communities the homeowners or the community members come out and say ‘Thank you so much, we’re so happy that you did this.’ And the students really feel good about themselves.”

Click here to listen to the entire interview.

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