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Find this year's schools on our National Blue Ribbon Schools award winners list

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Sydney Chaffee

Keynote Speech

The Hero’s Journey: What Role Will You Play?

Sydney Chaffee Photo

2017 National Teacher of the Year
Sydney Chaffee
champions education as a force for social justice.

For the ceremony’s keynote speech, National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee drew on the myth of The Hero’s Journey—a quest story that takes its actor from the comforts of the known world into a wider, unknown world of threats and challenges.

Critically, at certain moments, a mentor or helper appears and helps the hero overcome terrible dangers. The hero returns to the known world with new eyes. The work and practice of teachers, she said, was to be a “mentor, not a challenge,” she said, acknowledging her own failures.

“We don’t have to be perfect. We just need to be brave,” she assured the audience, to warm applause. And students need to feel they are “amazing,” she added, calling teachers the potential “transformative thread” in a student’s life. In response to an audience question, she described the weekly Community Circles she developed at her school as a successful way of inviting student voice into school issues.

 Access Sydney Chaffee’s PowerPoint slides here.

 Access Sydney Chaffee’s transcript here.