Video Gallery

About this Video

Social justice belongs in our schools, says educator Sydney Chaffee. In a bold talk, she shows how teaching students to engage in activism helps them build important academic and life skills — and asks us to rethink how we can use education to help kids find their voices. “Teaching will always be a political act,” Chaffee says. “We can’t be afraid of our students’ power. Their power will help them make tomorrow better.”


About the Speaker

Sydney Chaffee

Sydney Chaffee

As Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee is committed to taking risks for her students and, as National Teacher of the Year, will encourage all educators to take risks – on their students, on each other and on themselves.

As a humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Boston, Sydney takes risks every day to improve learning for all of her students. In the classroom, she strives to create lessons that demonstrate how education can be a transformative tool for social justice, and she encourages her students to see themselves as having the power to make change in the world based on lessons from the past.

“Education must be authentic. There is no use in studying history if we believe it to be static and irrelevant to the future,” she says. “Authentic learning enables students to see and create connections in the world around them.”

She tries to infuse the hard work of learning with joy, not only in her classroom but throughout the school. For example, she is the coordinator of a schoolwide Community Circle every Thursday where all students in the school come together to celebrate successes, share good news and dig into serious conversations together.

As the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Sydney is looking forward to advocating for all teachers to take risks on behalf of their students and giving a voice to the issues that affect her students.

“When smart, driven teachers are given time and space to collaborate, we can help all of our students in all of our schools succeed. We have a lot of work to do, but we can achieve so much for kids when we commit-together-to being simultaneously optimistic and daring,” she says.

Sydney has taught for the past 10 years, 9 of which have been in her current role. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and a Masters of Education from Lesley University. Sydney is a National Board Certified Teacher.