Teaching Profession

Meet the Top Four Teachers in the Country

By Madeline Will — January 16, 2020 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The four finalists for the 2020 National Teacher of the Year come from a wide range of backgrounds and subject areas, but they all have emphasized equity in their approach to instruction.

The Council of Chief State Schools Officers announced today the finalists for the award, which recognizes teachers for their work inside and outside the classroom. One of these teachers will receive the national honor, granting him or her a yearlong sabbatical to travel across the country and the world, headline conferences, meet with policymakers, and have a national platform to advocate for an issue of choice.

Here are the four finalists (in order of their pictures above, from left to right):

  • Linda Rost, a high school science teacher in Baker, Mont.
  • Chris Dier, a high school history teacher in Chalmette, La.;
  • Leila Kubesch, a middle school Spanish and English-as-a-second-language teacher in Norwood, Ohio; and
  • Tabatha Rosproy, a preschool teacher in Winfield; Kan.

“These State Teachers of the Year are working to equitably meet the needs of all students by holding high expectations for every child, prioritizing student wellbeing, and intentionally engaging with the communities in which they teach,” said the selection committee in a statement. The committee includes representatives from 17 education and community organizations.

Dier, who teaches world history and Advanced Placement human geography, works in a schol district that has one of the fast growing Hispanic populations in the country. He wrote in his application essay that he strives to decolonize his curriculum by including the perspective of marginalized populations, especially those that have worked collaboratively to enact change.

“My goal is not just to teach content, but to empower students and give them the framework to use their voices for positive change,” he wrote in his application essay. “In particular, students with identities that exist on the margins of dominant narratives must be made visible and celebrated to ensure that all voices are magnified and everyone’s potential realized.”

Kubesch, who teaches in a high-needs school, has brought in experts from the community, such as a Japanese American haiku master and artist, to engage with her students. She is also focused on encouraging student voice and a global mindset through large-scale service-learning projects.

“I place a high priority on understanding my students and their needs to remove barriers to success,” she wrote in her essay, adding that she sends handwritten postcards to each student in her school to welcome them, makes sure she pronounces students’ names correctly, and visits students’ homes to make connections with their parents.

Rosproy teaches preschool in a local retirement community and nursing home. The community members visit her classroom daily as “grandparent” volunteers, and the preschoolers visit the nursing home every day. The program serves at-risk, special education, and typically developing preschoolers, and it has the highest preschool literacy and math scores in the school district.

“Social-emotional learning has empowered my students to have a voice in conflict and to understand that conflict is HOW we learn,” she wrote in her essay. “This has shaped my students to think critically, to solve problems, and to welcome our feelings because our feelings give us information. ... Teaching self-regulation cannot be narrowed down to one lesson or unit because it is so far-reaching, yet it is just as intentional as mathematics or literacy instruction.”

Rost, who teaches biology, AP biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and science research, started the science research program at her rural high school. She is passionate about bringing opportunities to her students, despite living in a remote area. Rost has brought in community experts, including tribal scientists, to her classroom, and was part of a team that received a grant for Indian Education for All, which let her bring a cultural diversity workshop to the district.

“I have seen racist attitudes dissolve in my classroom as students transform into culturally responsive learners,” she wrote in her essay. “Our small school district in remotely rural southeast Montana has become a city on a hill, an example of scholarship in pursuit of relevant and culturally responsive, reflective teaching.”

The finalists were chosen from a group of 55 educators who hail from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and U.S. territories. The national winner will be chosen in the spring and recognized by the president at the White House.

Rodney Robinson, a social studies teacher who works with students at a Richmond, Va., juvenile detention center, was the latest educator to win the national award.

Image of Rost, Dier, Kubesch, and Rosproy, courtesy of CCSSO

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.