This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Search form

What the Promise of Education Did for Me:

Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the Year, reflects on how the support of good teachers and the promise of public education changed her life.

Today, during Teacher Appreciation Week, President Obama is welcoming the 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes and some of the nation's top educators to the White House to honor their public service. Watch his remarks at 4:30 pm ET:

Before today's ceremony, Jahana Hayes sent this message to the White House email list. Didn't get the email? Sign up for updates here.

As a country, we need to ensure that the quality of a child’s education is not dependent on the neighborhood where he or she grew up.

For me, that’s personal. I grew up in the projects, surrounded by poverty, drugs and violence. At the age of 17, I became a mom.

Growing up, education was never seen as a pathway to success in my family, yet my teachers believed in me. Some of them even let me borrow books to read at home.

They challenged me to imagine myself in a different set of circumstances, no matter how difficult. They encouraged me to do more, be more, expect more, and become the first in my family to go to college. They inspired me to become a teacher so I could make the same kind of impact in my own students’ lives -- a teacher whose influence extends beyond the classroom.

Their support took me far. Today, I’m at the White House to be honored by President Obama as the 2016 National Teacher of the Year.

Tune in at 4:30 pm Eastern to watch President Obama thank our nation’s top educators for their hard work and celebrate teachers across the country who are giving students a chance to succeed.

Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of hte Year
Jahana Hayes (Photo: Council of Chief State School Officers)

There are few presidents in our country’s history who have believed as passionately in the power of a quality education for all of our young people as President Obama does.

That’s why I’m particularly excited to join President Obama this year, only months after he signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA -- a major step toward reshaping how our federal government supports the education provided to our young people.

As a teacher, I am always reflecting on my practice. Did a lesson go as I thought it would? (They rarely do.) Where did students struggle, and where did they succeed? ESSA is a great representation of this reflective process: It cements critical policies, like holding high standards for teaching and learning, while also allowing states and districts flexibility in creating policies to address the diverse needs of our students.

I’m grateful for the President’s leadership on education throughout his time in office. Through all of the hardships and struggle, when I stand in front of my classroom, I see nothing but promise in the faces of the students looking back at me.

That’s a powerful thing -- and something the President knows is worth fighting for.