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Kelly Harper, DC’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, Named a Finalist for National Teacher of the Year

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Amidon-Bowen Elementary School educator is one of four in the running for nation’s top teaching honor

Media Contact: Fred Lewis: (202) 412-2167, [email protected]

The Bowser Administration announced District of Columbia’s 2019 Teacher of the Year Kelly Harper has been selected as one of four finalists for the 2019 National Teacher of the Year. The last time a DC teacher was in the running for the national honor was in 2005, when Jason Kamras, who went on to serve in leadership roles at DC Public Schools, was named National Teacher of the Year.

“Ms. Harper is an inspiration to her students, a leader in her school community, and we are proud to have her representing Washington, DC and teachers nationwide,” said Mayor Bowser. “It is clear that Ms. Harper is dedicated to her students, families, and colleagues and this national recognition is very well deserved.”

Ms. Harper, a third grade teacher at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, is in her seventh year as an educator. She inspires her students through social justice and advocacy projects and serves as a leader at the school and district levels. Ms. Harper launched her career in Houston, Texas as a Teach For America corps member. In Houston, Ms. Harper led her students to significant gains and was the 2014 Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award Houston Finalist and National Nominee.

“Excellent teaching is built on the invaluable foundation of strong relationships between teachers and their students and families. Great teaching ignites a lifelong love of learning in students that prepares them to think critically about the world around them and to become change agents in their communities,” Harper said. “This national honor is humbling, exciting, and invigorating: being chosen as one of four national finalists reaffirms how important it is that we celebrate our nation's teachers. I work amongst exceptional educators throughout the District, and I am honored to represent them in the National Teacher of the Year Award journey.”

Harper believes education is a powerful tool for dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and a transformative tool for combating injustice. Harper engages students in culturally relevant lessons and uses her native Washington, DC area as an extension of the classroom, guiding students in advocacy projects and meeting with members of Congress in the US Capitol Building. Harper has said her greatest mission is to empower her students to become change-agents in their neighborhoods and the world.

State Superintendent Hanseul Kang will visit Harper’s classroom Monday, Jan. 28 as part of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s DC All-STAR School Tour, which highlights 10 schools district-wide that are that are showing outstanding results for students on the DC School Report Card and School Transparency and Reporting (STAR) Framework.

“It is an honor to have Ms. Harper represent DC on a national level. She serves as a leader to her colleagues in a variety of roles to improve the quality of teaching district-wide, she sets high expectations for her students through rigorous culturally relevant instruction, and partners with families to ensure student success,” said State Superintendent Kang. “As an advocate for the profession, who always puts students and families first, Ms. Harper would make an excellent National Teacher of the Year.”

Harper has served on the 2016-17 DCPS Chancellor’s Teachers’ Cabinet and was a 2014 TeachPlus DC Federal Policy Fellow. At Amidon-Bowen Elementary, a pre-K 3-grade 5 school in Ward 6, Harper has served as a teacher-coach for grades 3-5 reading teachers at Amidon-Bowen, professional development trainer for teachers across DCPS for English language arts (ELA), and written ELA curriculum for DCPS. She currently is on her school’s Flamboyan Foundation Family Engagement Leadership Team and is a facilitator for DCPS’ Family Engagement Collaborative.

The National Teacher of the Year Program, run by the Council for Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO), identifies exceptional teachers nationwide, celebrates their effective work in and outside of the classroom, amplifies their voices and empowers them to take part in policy discussions at the state and national levels. Every year, the National Teacher of the Year Selection Committee selects four finalists from a group of 57 State Teachers of the Year based on a specific set of criteria. The National Teacher of the Year is then selected after rigorous in-person interviews with the selection committee, which includes representatives from 16 renowned education and community organizations, which collectively represent millions of educators.

In addition to Ms. Harper, the other finalists are: Donna Gradel, the 2019 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, a high school science teacher; Danielle Riha, the 2019 Alaska Teacher of the Year, who teaches middle school math, science, social studies, and English; and Rodney Robinson, the 2019 Virginia Teacher of the Year, who teaches social studies in a juvenile detention facility.

One of the finalists announced today will be named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year this spring by a national selection committee and will spend the next year traveling the country as an ambassador for education and an advocate for all teachers and students. Each year, since 1952, the President of the United States has recognized the National Teacher of the Year at a White House ceremony in the spring.

Additional information on the 2019 National Teacher of the Year finalists can be found on CCSSO’s website.