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Garfield High School history teacher Jesse Hagopian was named “Secondary School Teacher of the Year” on Saturday by the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International at a black-tie gala in the nation’s capital. In addition to this “Bammy” Award—the “Grammys for teachers”—the academy also presented Mr. Hagopian with a Special Achievement Bammy.
The annual Bammy awards recognize educators from across the education field: teachers, principals, librarians, nurses, school-board members, superintendents, and others.
Hagopian knew he was one of five finalists nominated in the secondary school category, but he had no idea the academy had decided to give him another Bammy as well. “They had just presented a Special Achievement Bammy to Sandy Hook Elementary School, and all of us in the audience were numb as we thought about the tragedy that school had gone through,” Jesse said afterwards. “And then, out of nowhere, I hear my name being called, and they’re asking me to come up on stage. I’m still thinking about Sandy Hook, and I had no idea what to say right then.”
The presenter told the audience this Bammy was for “a demonstration of courage” because, he said, courage is necessary “when doing what’s in the best interests of children…” He added that sometimes courage “means going against accepted policy, going against what is accepted convention.”
He was, of course, referring to the Garfield faculty’s civilly disobedient “boycott” this past school year of the Measures of Academic Progress– a standardized testing instrument known as the MAP test. After Garfield’s faculty refused – without a single dissenting vote – to administer this test, teachers at several other Seattle schools joined the boycott. Near the end of the school year, Seattle schools’ Superintendent Jose Banda relented, telling high schools they were no longer required to use the MAP test.
“This is a victory for all of the students, parents and teachers at Garfield who refused to give the Michelle Rhee-endorsed MAP test, and who stood strong in the face of education-corrupting standardized testing that has run over our students,” said Hagopian, as he held up the silver-and-lead-crystal Bammy award. “And this,” he said after a pause, again hoisting the hefty Bammy, “is a victory of all of those teachers and educators who said that you should be both a social-justice advocate in the classroom, and outside the classroom.”
Although Hagopian, a history teacher, was not asked to administer the MAP test, he helped organize with the math, language arts and other teachers for whom the MAP test was a district requirement. Hagopian, worked hard to build support for the boycott around the city and helped to popularize the struggle around the country.
Hagopian’s attendance at the gala was a coincidental accident of scheduling. The National Education Association had flown him to the capital that same week to testify before the Congressional Black Caucus of the U.S. Congress. He was one of several educators from across the country that testified to the caucus about the negative impacts of standardized testing and school closures on at-risk students and their communities.
Along with teaching history, Jesse Hagopian is the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School. He is an associate editor of the acclaimed Rethinking Schools magazine, a founding member of Social Equality Educators (SEE), and was recipient of the 2012 Abe Keller Foundation award for “excellence and innovation in peace education.” Hagopian is an author, activist, and, since the MAP boycott, an “in-demand” public speaker. Jesse is a contributing author to 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History (Haymarket Books) and editor of the blog I Am an Educator. Jesse and his wife, Sarah Wilhelm, have two sons, Miles and Satchel.
“Nominees like Jesse Hagopian are demonstrating that there are a lot of people who are not waiting for Superman and are doing excellent work and making a difference in education right now,” said Errol St. Clair Smith, Spokesperson for the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International. “The nomination alone is a meaningful statement that the nominee is making a difference and is standing out in the field.”
Serena Samar, Garfield High School special education teacher, said of Jesse, “When students take Mr. Hagopian’s class, I know their lives will be changed for the better! His uncanny ability to incorporate history into how it influences each student’s life now has changed many of my student’s educational experiences for the better. They feel empowered and hopeful, which is what the educational experience should be for all students.”
Commentator John Young wrote of Hagopian’s leadership in the MAP test boycott, “Jesse Hagopian is doing more than teaching history. He is answering history’s call.”
Bob George, Save Our Schools National Director, added, “Jesse brings parents, students, and teachers together for the greater good. He is a tireless advocate for his students and his coworkers. His voice is for social justice.”
The Bammys are presented by The Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International, which includes leading educators, education professors, journalists, editors, researchers, commentators, advocates, activists, visionaries and pioneers. The Academy is comprised of a board of governors, a council of peers, and associate members.
Hagopian is member of Social Equality Educators (SEE), a group of social-justice teachers and education aids that works to build community alliances in purist of quality education, oppose the corporate school-reform agenda, and strengthen the teacher’s union by helping it adopt a social-movement approach to unionism. Social Equality Educators played a vital role in spreading the 2012-2013 MAP test boycott to schools around Seattle, have hosted forums on closing the “opportunity gap” in the Seattle Public Schools, and have staged protests of the Washington State Legislature for its failure to fully fund education.
About the Bammy Awards
The Bammy Awards honor the contributions of educators in 28 categories across the field.
Presenters announced include: Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association; Marybeth Hertz, executive board member of the Edcamp Foundation; Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators; Chris Lehmann, founder and co-chair of Educon; Gail Connelly, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals; Angela Maiers, founder of Choose2Matter; Yasmina Vinci, executive director for the National Head Start Association; John Merrow, veteran education reporter at PBS; Donna Mazyck, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses; Tom Whitby and Steven Anderson, co-founders of #Edchat; Caroline Hendrie, executive director of the Education Writers Association. William J. Bushaw, executive director, PDK International Family; Rob Lippincott, senior vice president, PBS Learning Media; and The Northeast Foundation for Children.
The 2013 Bammy Awards were held at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center in Washington, D.C., on September 21(st). The awards were co-hosted by Dr. Mark Ginsberg, dean of the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University, and Errol St. Clair Smith, Emmy-winning correspondent, broadcaster and executive producer of the Bammy Awards.
This year’s celebration included a number of special presentations, including lifetime achievement awards to Randi Weingarten and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, special achievement awards to the founders of Edcamp and #Edchat, a special Bammy presentation to educators from Sandy Hook Elementary School, a salute by the BAM 100 celebrating connected educators, Bammy Awards for the best in education technology, and a very special Bammy Award honoring a truly exceptional student.
“The Bammy Awards were created in response to the relentless national criticism of America’s public schools, while all that is right in American education is largely ignored,” said Errol St. Clair Smith, Bammy Awards executive producer. Modeled on the broad scope of the Oscars, Grammys and Emmys, the Bammy Awards were created to be a cross-discipline honor celebrating the entire education village.
About the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences
The Academy is comprised of over 212 prominent education leaders, including Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University; Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education; Timothy Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics; and the executive directors of NAESP, AASA, PTA, NASN, ASBO and NASSP.
Posted by Dora Taylor