2016 National Teacher of the Year
Jahana Hayes teaches history at
John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury,
Connecticut. We asked her about the
importance of community service and why
more minority teachers are needed in schools.
You grew up in a very low-income neighborhood
in a family who didn’t think college would be
possible for you, yet your teachers showed you
what education could do. How did they do this?
I was always a very good student, and I enjoyed
school. I just didn’t know how to map that out.
I wasn’t aware of the opportunities. When I’d go
home and say, “I think I want to go to college,”
nobody in my family knew the process or how to
help me do college searches. At a young age, I was
in the talented and gifted program. A lot of my
classmates had a college chart already mapped out;
they knew their top three schools, and I wasn’t
having these conversations at home.
Several teachers took a personal interest in me.
They would talk to me outside class and say, “Are
you all set for college?” A guidance counselor came
to my house to say, “You know, you need to mail
© CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETY IMAGES