At a time when teachers, in general, are being criticized and targeted more than ever before, there are still reminders and accolades for those that have a tremendous effect on students, and help them attain their education ambitions to the fullest extent. Every year, one teacher is heralded on the national level for their achievements as an educator. Today, that teacher of the year award was given to Ohio teacher Kurt Russell.
See the teacher below on CBS Mornings.
The national award has recognized teachers for seven decades. First dedicated in 1952, the award is handed out by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The non-partisan, non-profit organization of public officials is compromised of members of the education department. Sponsored by ING, candidate submissions are gathered by students, principals, teachers, and administrators. The organization first recognizes a state-level teacher of the year, and then the group chooses a National level recipient, based on their excellence in teaching.
Kurt Russell was first named as Ohio’s teacher of the year before being named nationally today via the Associated Press as 2022’s finalist. Russell teaches history at the Oberlin High School in Ohio, where the school broke into a joyous frenzy just a little past 8 am this morning when the school was alerted of his award. Met with approval from students and coworkers, Russell’s story reads like that of a movie, and the teacher seems well-deserving of the title.
Russell, a Black man, spoke with the associated press about his aspirations to become a teacher. For starters, his parent’s story led him to a career in education. The teacher of the year’s parents grew up attending segregated schools in America. His parents eventually moved to Oberlin to escape the ideals of the Jim Crow South. Russell recalled how his mother marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which is the beginning moment that he “fell in love with history.”
But it wasn’t just his parents that influenced Russell’s passion for mentoring. Kurt also spoke of the influence past teachers had on him growing up. In Kindergarten, the teacher of the year recalled his White teacher that read a book about Martin Luther King Jr. Later on in eighth grade, Russell’s future career was further cemented by his first Black teacher. To this, Russell recalls how fascinated he was to see a Black man in that demeanor, but more so to see it within someone that looked like he did.
After graduating from Wooster College in 1994, Russell attained his dream job at Oberlin, where he has remained since. Within his first year as a teacher in Oberlin, Russell created an African American history course. The teacher of the year has also developed a musical studies class called Black Music in the African Diaspora that covers blues, jazz, and R&B.
Russell’s colleagues speak highly of the teacher of the year. His students may be his biggest supporters and advocates for the award, but his Principal is just as enthusiastic. Brent Betts praised Russell’s work at the high school. “One of the greatest things about Kurt Russell is the classroom culture he’s created. He’s created a culture where everybody has a voice and students feel comfortable sharing their opinions,” Betts said. Likewise, the CCSSO Chief Executive Officer, Carissa Moffat Miller, spoke of the organization’s decision to give him the prestigious award. “Kurt’s extensive career shows the power of educators to shape the lives of students from the classroom to extracurricular activities to the basketball court,” said Miller.
Now that Kurt Russell has been named the national teacher of the year in America, Russell will spend the next year outside of the classroom. Russell will now serve as a spokesman and advocate for the entire teaching profession nationwide. However, he will still receive his normal salary as an educator. In a time when teacher scrutiny is at an all-time high, it’s a comforting relief to see those who care so much for our youth to be recognized.