Georgia Charter Schools Association is pleased to announce that Sydney Chaffee, the first charter school teacher selected as National Teacher of the Year, will serve as a keynote speaker for the 2019 Georgia Charter Schools Conference! Chaffee will speak during the Conference General Session on the morning of Friday, Feb. 15. Read her bio below.
Sydney Chaffee decided to become a teacher after being inspired by her professors at Sarah Lawrence College, who lit intellectual fires in her with great books and powerful questions. After earning her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence in 2005, she moved to Boston to become a National Teaching Fellow at Citizen Schools’ 8th Grade Academy, where she learned to infuse the hard work of teaching and learning with joy. As part of her work at Citizen Schools, Chaffee also coordinated the Boston Public Library’s Homework Assistance Program and earned an M.Ed. from Lesley University in 2007.
Since 2007, she has been the ninth grade Humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School. Chaffee believes that intelligence is not fixed; all students can learn with appropriate supports and challenges. Her students build literacy skills through a unique partnership with Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company that culminates in a play set during a historical era students have studied. Students also internalize and apply what they have learned through collaborative projects, including a mock trial based on South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission and regular class discussions about complex texts.
In addition to teaching, Chaffee has served as Humanities Department Chair, co-coordinator of a weekly all-school Community Circle, and a mentor teacher for pre-service teachers from Tufts University and Boston University. Outside of school, Sydney was a part-time faculty member at Boston University’s School of Education, a TeachPlus Policy Fellow, an EdX Policy Fellow, and facilitator of a Boston Educators Collaborative course that brought together teachers from district, charter, and parochial schools to collaborate on curriculum design.
In the spring and summer of 2013, she worked as a consultant on EL Education’s curriculum design project, collaborating with educators from across the country to write eighth-grade curricular modules. Since their publication, these curricula have been downloaded more than 3 million times and implemented by over 1,000 schools nationwide.
As 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, Chaffee appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with her colleagues across the state, advocate for the profession to be elevated and respected, and continue to learn from her students. As 2017 National Teacher of the Year, she was able to speak to a wider audience about the value of public education for all students, the possibilities of integrating arts education into traditional academic disciplines, the importance of teacher learning, and the role of education in social justice movements.