Tennessee ESL Educator Missy Testerman is the 2024 National Teacher of the Year

Tennessee ESL Educator Missy Testerman is the 2024 National Teacher of the YearBy Michael Manyibe

Missy Testerman, an English-as-a-second-language (ESL) program director at Rogersville City School in Tennessee, has Missy been named the 2024 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Testerman’s commitment to inclusivity and connection in rural Appalachia, as well as her dedication to serving her students and their families, earned her this prestigious honor.

During an appearance on CBS Mornings, Testerman expressed her gratitude and excitement for the opportunity to advocate for teachers and students nationwide, stating, “There are 3.5 million dedicated teachers in this country, so to be chosen as the one who gets to advocate for our teachers and our students over the next year is just a phenomenal honor.”

First Lady Jill Biden, herself a long-time educator, surprised Testerman on the show with flowers and an announcement, saying, “When Testerman and the state teachers of the year visit the White House this spring for an annual ceremony, they’ll be honored in a state dinner.” She added, “I always say teachers are heroes.”

Reflecting on her journey to becoming an educator, the National Teacher of the Year shared a personal anecdote: “I wanted to be a teacher when I walked into the classroom of my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Brown. I was very scared, and she took me by the hand, led me over to where my classmates and the toys were, and from that moment on, I wanted to be like Mrs. Brown.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee praised Testerman’s achievement, stating, “Teaching is more than a career, it’s a calling. I join all Tennesseans in thanking Missy for her dedication to students, preparing them to thrive in the classroom and beyond.”

In interviews with former students on CBS Mornings, Testerman’s impact was evident. One student, Mariam El Kammash, remarked, “She really believed in us.” Another former student, Jasmen Aglan, shared, “Mrs. Testerman helped us feel more welcome when my brother started school. She’s really nice to my family.” Caroline Hicks, another former student, added, “Every time I see her in the hallway, she always makes me smile every time, and I really like that.”

As the 2024 National Teacher of the Year, Missy Testerman will spend the next year on a sabbatical from the classroom, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession. Reflecting on the importance of the teacher-student relationship, Testerman emphasized, “Our students trust us, and they come to us every day with what they’re struggling with, and they expect us to help them and find answers. I think we have such a strong bond with our students. It’s such a great part of the job—that connection.”

Among the other finalists were Joe Nappi, a higher school history teacher in Tinton Falls, New Jersey; Christy Todd, a middle school music technology teacher in Fayetteville, Georgia and Catherine (Cat) Walker, a science and career and technical education teacher in Anchorage, Alaska. Rebecka Peterson, a high school math teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the 2023 National Teacher of the Year.

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