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TEA News Releases Online April 27, 2015

Amarillo ISD teacher named National Teacher of the Year

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams and Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Executive Director Johnny Veselka today congratulated Amarillo teacher Shanna Peeples who has been named 2015 National Teacher of the Year. Peeples, an English teacher at Palo Duro High School in the Amarillo Independent School District, is the first educator from the state of Texas to earn the national honor since 1957.

The National Teacher of the Year program identifies exceptional teachers in the country, recognizes their effective work in the classroom and empowers them to participate in policy discussions at the state and national levels. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which oversees the National Teacher of the Year program, today announced Peeples as this year’s winner.

"I want to congratulate Shanna Peeples on this extraordinary honor and express my sincerest gratitude for her dedication to improving the lives of so many young Texans," said Governor Abbott. "The future success of our children is dependent on educators like Shanna, and with their invaluable dedication, Texas will continue to inspire a culture of excellence that will keep our state the shining beacon of educational growth and opportunity."

Commissioner Williams said, “Shanna Peeples brings a combination of knowledge, energy and enthusiasm to her classroom and her students are the beneficiaries. It is wonderful to see a Texas educator claim this national honor, someone who represents the very best of what you will see on campuses throughout our state.”

“Shanna Peeples is an outstanding educator who truly connects with her students, showing them that the possibilities for their future are limitless,” said TASA’s Veselka, whose organization administers the Texas Teacher of the Year program and serves as Texas’ state coordinator for the National Teacher of the Year program. “She cultivates a collaborative, engaging learning environment, serving as a model for her colleagues throughout the teaching profession. She will be a great ambassador for public education and the teaching profession.”

 Peeples worked as a disc jockey, medical assistant, pet sitter and journalist prior to becoming a teacher – a profession she says eventually chose her. She taught seventh grade English Language Arts for about six years before moving to high school. Peeples teaches AP English and English III. She serves as the English department chair as well as an instructional coach for other teachers. At Palo Duro High School, many of Peeples’ students are immigrants, who come from as many as 18 different countries in some school years.

“My students, survivors of deep and debilitating trauma, have shaped the kind of teacher I am," said Peeples. “They have taught me to never make a promise I can’t keep, because so many already have learned to see the world through suspicious eyes. To be the best teacher to them, I have to remember this and honor their background. I remember so I can gain their trust because I want them to read and write their way out of where they are.”

Peeples will be formally recognized by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony on Wednesday, April 29. Commissioner Williams, Veselka, State Board of Education (SBOE) Member Marty Rowley and Amarillo ISD Superintendent Rod Schroder will be in Washington D.C. to attend the event.

“Shanna's selection for this award is perfectly fitting,” said SBOE member Rowley, whose district includes Amarillo. “Not only will she represent the Amarillo area well, she is also an excellent representative of the teaching profession nationally. Shanna is caring, articulate, innovative and dedicated to the well-being of her students and fellow teachers. Public education will be well-served with Shanna as National Teacher of the Year.”

Peeples was named the 2015 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year last fall as part of the Texas Teacher of the Year program. To achieve recognition in that program, a teacher must first be chosen as a campus and a district Teacher of the Year, then be selected as one of 40 regional Teachers of the Year — one elementary and one secondary teacher from each of the 20 Education Service Center regions. Six finalists are then chosen, and following an interview process, the Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year and Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year are named. One is selected to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year program.

 The National Teacher of the Year Program is run by the Council of Chief State Schools Officers and is presented by Voya Financial. Every year, exemplary teachers from each state, the U.S. extra-state territories, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity are selected as State Teachers of the Year. From that group, the National Teacher of the Year is then selected by a panel representing 15 renowned education organizations, which collectively represent more than 7 million educators.

For more information on the Texas Teacher of the Year program, visit http://www.tasanet.org/txtoy.

For information on the National Teacher of the Year program, visit http://www.ccsso.org/ntoy.html.

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Editor’s Note: Shanna Peeples ­­­will be available to do interviews with the Texas media from 2:30-3:30 p.m. today. Please contact communications@ccsso.org to schedule an interview.