Jennifer Hedrington, a seventh-grade math teacher at Ferryway School in Malden, was named Tuesday as Massachusetts’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, the state’s top annual award for educators.
Hedrington is the 59th person to receive the award, which is given to a teacher who “exemplifies the dedication, commitment and positive contributions of educators statewide," according to a statement from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She will automatically become the state’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year program.
Hedrington is in her 16th year of teaching secondary school mathematics and her 10th year teaching in Malden. While teaching, she works to “promote higher order thinking skills” and builds in time for “commercial breaks” that allow students to “discuss issues that are affecting the school or larger community," state education officials wrote in a statement.
“What drives me every day, I want to become the teacher that I needed when I was in school that I didn’t have,” Hedrington told members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education during their meeting on Tuesday.
“I tell everyone we’re superheroes," Hedrington continued, referring to educators. “We can make or break a child. I can be a villain, or I can be their superhero.”
Hedrington also thanked her students, saying that she hopes to represent her students and her district well. Nominees for the award can be sent in by administrators, teachers, students, parents, and others.
“Without them, there is no Ms. H," she said. "I am only a teacher because they are my students.”
In addition to the curriculum, Harrington also “supported students when they spoke to the School Committee to address racist incidents, and she has delivered professional development presentations about trauma-informed classrooms,” according to the statement from state education officials. “One year, she created the League of Distinguished Gentleman to promote participants' engagement and growth in their community and school.”
She has also worked to involve students' families in the school, particularly in celebrating Black History Month, and has encouraged her students to engage with the community outside of the school, according to the state.
“The relationships that teachers like Ms. Hedrington build with their students and their students' families are important to children’s growth and development and have been made more critical as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” Governor Charlie Baker said in the statement. “I am pleased to see Ms. Hedrington recognized for her work, and I know that she represents many other dedicated educators across the Commonwealth."
In addition to Hedrington, the finalists for this year’s award were: Kelley Brown, a social studies and government teacher at Easthampton High School; Alicia M. Lopez Nieto, an English learner teacher and curriculum leader at Amherst Regional Middle School; and Laverne Mickens, a third-grade teacher at the Rebecca M. Johnson School in Springfield.