Connecticut Teacher of the Year 2016 and National Teacher of the Year - Jahana Hayes
Kennedy High School, Waterbury, CT
Jahana Hayes is a history teacher and the chairperson of the School of Academic Renown (SOAR) Program at Kennedy High School in the Waterbury Public School District. She began her teaching career in the New Haven Public Schools and completed her student teaching under the 2005 CT Teacher of the Year Dr. Burt Saxon. In the last 10 years she has taught World History, Roots of American Citizenship, U.S. History, Civics, Geography and African American History, a course for which she helped to write the curriculum and implement.
In addition to her teaching duties, Mrs. Hayes serves as the chairperson of the Kennedy School Governance Council. She also worked for seven years as the lead teacher for the 21st Century after school program and served as a NEASC chairperson and a visiting committee member. In the past year, Mrs. Hayes helped secure a Minority Teacher Recruitment and Retention grant for the district offered by the Connecticut State Department of Education. As part of this grant she did extensive work and employed collaborative efforts among students, teachers, community members and parents to address the challenges the district faces in minority teacher recruitment. She is currently implementing programs to introduce students to teaching as a profession and continues to work closely with district personnel on minority recruitment and retention efforts. Mrs. Hayes mentors new teachers and is currently assisting in establishing district-wide mentorship programs.
Mrs. Hayes has a passion for service learning and spearheads community service efforts at her school. As co-advisor of the Helping out People Everywhere (HOPE) club, she has traveled around the country with students to build homes with Habitat for Humanity and she has raised thousands of dollars for Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. Her other service activities include helping to beautify the city as a member of the Board of Directors for the Citywide Front Porch Clean-Up, the Taft Global Leadership Institute, and the Annual Kennedy Cancer Walk. She organizes annual coat drives and engages students in City of Dreams, an organization to raise awareness about homelessness. Mrs. Hayes compels students to find their “call to action” and get involved in improving their community. Her goal is to write and implement a service learning curriculum to teach students the benefits and importance of helping others.
Students gravitate to Mrs. Hayes and describe her energy as “infectious.” She is always willing to participate in student-led activities and is the reigning “Dancing with the Stars” champion, a student-teacher dance contest at Kennedy High School. Mrs. Hayes works well beyond her contracted duties to ensure success for all of her students and can be found after school in Waterbury neighborhoods checking on her students and engaging in community events. Mrs. Hayes says that being able to teach in the community where she was born and raised is the greatest gift. She credits so much of who she is and her ability to connect with students to her relationship with the Waterbury community and her family. Mrs. Hayes earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Connecticut State University, a master’s degree from the University of St. Joseph and a 6th Year advanced degree from the University of Bridgeport.