CCSSO Announces Finalists for 2021 National Teacher of the Year

Contact: Carolyn Phenicie       Email: Carolyn.Phenicie@ccsso.org

Washington, D.C. (January 27, 2021) – The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today announced that four exemplary educators from across the country are finalists for 2021 National Teacher of the Year:

  • John Arthur, the 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year, is a sixth-grade teacher whose students have gained national recognition as advocates for children and immigrants through the videos they create and share on their YouTube channel, 9thEvermore.
  • Alejandro Diasgranados, the 2021 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year, teaches fourth and fifth grade English and social studies, and has worked with community partners to ensure students have access to essentials like warm coats, laundry facilities, and laptops.
  • Maureen Stover, the 2021 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, is an Air Force veteran and high school biology and earth and environmental science teacher who seeks to provide clear pathways for students to successfully enter the career or college program of their choice upon graduation from high school.
  • Juliana Urtubey, the 2021 Nevada Teacher of the Year, is a National Board Certified elementary special education teacher known as “Ms. Earth” for her service and leadership in addressing critical issues of educational equity by unifying the school community through gardens and murals.

CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program identifies exceptional educators across the country, celebrates their work in and outside the classroom, and, through a one-of-a-kind professional development opportunity helps them amplify their voices and empowers them to take part in policy discussions at the state and national level.

“We are honored to celebrate the devoted work of educators in this year like no other. All teachers across the country deserve our heartfelt gratitude for their tireless work throughout this pandemic, and I am in awe of the exemplary service of this year’s entire class of State Teachers of the Year,” said CCSSO Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller. “Thank you to the selection committee for their work in selecting these finalists from such an outstanding group of educators. I offer my congratulations to the finalists for their inspiration in how they show up every day to meet the diverse needs of all their students.”

Each year, states, the District of Columbia, U.S. extra-state territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity select exemplary educators to serve as State Teachers of the Year. The 2021 cohort includes 56 educators. From that group, the National Teacher of the Year selection committee, which includes representatives from 16 education organizations, selects four finalists based on written applications.

The finalists announced today will complete virtual interviews with the National Teacher of the Year Program’s selection committee, and the 2021 National Teacher of the Year will be announced later this spring. The 2021 National Teacher of the Year will spend the next year serving as an ambassador for education and an advocate for all teachers and students.

“America’s educators have tackled the unprecedented challenges of teaching during the coronavirus pandemic with creative problem-solving, flexibility, and unwavering dedication to their students. Throughout, they have also worked to confront social and racial injustice and recognize the need for equitable educational opportunities for all students,” the selection committee said. “The finalists stand out as models of this creativity and dedication, committed to serving their students and communities with expertise and empathy. Any one of them would do an outstanding job as National Teacher of the Year.”

Additional information on the finalists can be found below. More information about the 2021 State Teachers of the Year and the National Teacher of the Year Program is available at ntoy.ccsso.org.

Special thanks to the National Teacher of the Year Program sponsors: Curriculum Associates, ETS, Google for Education, Pearson, Verizon Business, and Voya Financial.

John Arthur, the 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year

John Arthur (jAHn AHR-thuhr) teaches sixth grade at Meadowlark Elementary, a Title I school in Salt Lake City, Utah. His students have gained national recognition as advocates for children and immigrants through the videos they create and share on their YouTube channel, 9thEvermore. He encourages his students to take the lead, coaching them as they craft their content and discover the power of their own voices.

Arthur found his passion for empowering youth while substitute teaching in Title I classrooms. Inspired by those students, he earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Westminster College. Now, in his eighth year at Meadowlark, he is a National Board Certified Teacher and an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education at Westminster College. He continues to advance his own learning in meeting the needs of all students, earning a Master of Education in K-6 Special Education and an English Language Learner endorsement.

Arthur believes that educational equity is a moral imperative, and that a teacher’s perspective is essential when crafting educational policy. He has chaired the Social Justice Committee for the Salt Lake Education Association and currently represents the Asian community on the Utah State Board of Education’s Advisory Committee on Equity. He is also helping revise Utah’s K-6 Social Studies Standards.

A committed advocate for students, Arthur has spoken at conferences including the National Association for Multicultural Education, the Utah Education Association, and the Open Education Resources Project, and delivered the 2018 keynote at the Leadership and Inquiry for Turnaround Conference.

Arthur’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.

Alejandro Diasgranados, the 2021 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year

Alejandro Diasgranados (A-lay-HAHN-droh DEE-AS-gruh-nah-dos) teaches fourth and fifth grade at Aiton Elementary School in Washington, D.C. He grew up in nearby Prince George’s County, Maryland, where he attended High Point High School. In 2010, Diasgranados enrolled at Virginia State University where he played football and received his Bachelor of Science in Health Science, then moved to Massachusetts and began graduate school in physical therapy. During his time in Massachusetts, a brief stint as a substitute teacher in Holyoke Public Schools ignited Diasgranados’s passion for education, equity, and leveraging the strengths of a culturally wealthy community, like Holyoke, to reach his students. This experience prompted Diasgranados to change course and apply to Teach for America.

In 2015, Diasgranados returned home to embark on his teaching career in D.C. while simultaneously pursuing his Master of Science in Education from Johns Hopkins University. His students took note of his enthusiasm and commitment to higher education, so it came as no surprise to Aiton leadership when all 40 of his students found a way to attend his graduation ceremony in spring 2018.

As a TFA alum and teacher-leader, Diasgranados has worked to connect the larger Washington community and his school to meet students’ needs, including a grant from the Washington Football Team for a school laundry center and a coat drive hosted with Devante Smith-Pelly, then a player with the Washington Capitals. Most recently, his school received 265 laptops to close the digital divide during COVID-19 due to his advocacy on the Drew Barrymore Show.

Diasgranados’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.

Maureen Stover, the 2021 North Carolina Teacher of the Year

Maureen Stover (More-EEN STOVE-er) teaches ninth and 10th grade biology, earth and environmental science, and advancement via individual determination (AVID) at Cumberland International Early College High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Stover has taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels and worked as an educational consultant for the National Science Teaching Association.

She earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from the United States Air Force Academy, Class of 1997; a Master of Arts Education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum and instruction from Adams State University in Colorado; a Master of Arts in teaching in secondary science from Western Governors University North Carolina; and a Leadership Certificate in STEM education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

As an educator, Stover is dedicated to improving educational opportunities for every student through equitable education initiatives and seeks to provide clear pathways for students to successfully enter the career or college program of their choice upon graduation from high school.

Prior to becoming a teacher, Stover served as an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force. In this role, she served as a flight commander, watch officer, and executive officer. Her military experience includes directing intelligence operations for 1,000 flights over Iraq, including 25 combat strike missions with zero combat losses. She was lauded by her commander as critical to the Air Force’s war on terror.

Stover’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.

Juliana Urtubey, the 2021 Nevada Teacher of the Year

Juliana Urtubey (HOO-lee-on-a ER-two-bay), a passionately committed educator and advocate, is the 2021 Nevada State Teacher of the Year. She is the first-ever Latinx Nevada State Teacher of the Year. Currently, she teaches in a hybrid learning environment at Booker Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada where she serves as a co-teacher in pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade special education settings and as an instructional strategist developing school-wide Multi-Tiered System of Supports for academic, social-emotional, and behavioral interventions.

Urtubey earned a Bachelor of Arts in Bilingual Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Special Bilingual Education from the University of Arizona. Urtubey is a National Board Certified Teacher (Exceptional Needs Specialist, Early Childhood and Young Adults).

She is warmly known as “Ms. Earth” for her service and leadership in co-creating an expansive garden and mural program in partnership with her school community including a vast network of students, family members, and community organizations. Her work addresses critical issues of educational equity and access by beautifying the school and unifying the school community.

Urtubey serves as a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Board Member and Teacher Fellow, a Teach Plus Nevada Senior Policy Fellow, an Understood Teacher Fellow and mentor, a Nevada Department of Education Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Cabinet member, a National Board Network of Accomplished Minoritized Educators founding board member, and a learning facilitator with the Nevada National Board Professional Learning Institute. She is a recipient of the 2019 Chicanos por La Causa Esperanza Latina Teaching Award, the 2019 Hispanic Education Association of Nevada Teacher of the Year, and a 2018 Rogers Foundation Heart of Education award winner.

Urtubey’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.

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The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, Bureau of Indian Education, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.