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Teacher of the Year addresses fellow educators at NEA convention

Maryland educator says, “Our schools are the land of opportunity in this country.”

DENVER - July 05, 2014 -

In his speech to the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly, NEA Member Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, said educators are the “decisive element” in the lives of millions of students who face daunting challenges every day of their lives.

“More than ever, children at the bottom need incredible schools and incredible teachers. Our schools are the land of opportunity in this country,” McComb said. “They must be—our children depend on them and they deserve for them to be.”

McComb, an English teacher at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts High School in Baltimore County, Md., was awarded the prestigious title in April by the Council of Chief State School Officers. At Patapsco, McComb focuses on creating critical readers, strong writers, and judicious thinkers. As coordinator of Patapsco’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, he takes a leadership role in honing student work habits and academic skill. This program helped Patapsco, for the first time in its 50-year history, receive recognition as a top high school from The Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report.

Introducing McComb to the delegates today, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel remarked that Sean has had profound insights into the profession, and the power of the teacher-student relationship. “I know that Sean will make a wonderful ambassador for our profession,” Van Roekel said.

McComb was selected to be Teacher of the Year not only for his tireless work in creating new learning opportunities for his students but also inspiring them, a role he underscored in his speech.

“I’m proud to be a teacher, a hope developer. Across this country, children look to their teachers to hold out hope,” he said. “To give students a belief in themselves. To give them the skills to make it reality. It is the exact effort that called me, like so many teachers, into this field, to be that decisive element in the classroom.”

McComb cautioned that teachers could only fulfill this role if the school culture fosters an environment that offers educators collaborative and leadership opportunities.

“Let’s all work to create systems that encourage collaboration, opening classroom doors to colleagues, and allotting the time and support to learn from one another. Because the expert to help us grow our practice doesn’t need to be the consultant from across the country—it might just be the colleague one classroom over,” said the English teacher, who is one of the youngest Teachers of the Year ever.

McComb pointed out that teacher leadership isn’t about educators immersing themselves in the weeds of every administrative decision. It's about “teams of teachers analyzing school needs, researching and proposing solutions, and leading the faculty and staff through the change process.”

He added that if schools follow through and build these types of learning communities, teachers can better move the hearts and minds of children.

McComb concluded by asking if the nation has the will to truly invest in public education, reject attempts to scapegoat the teaching profession, to rethink how they value education. It is, McComb said, the “biggest question facing our nation today.”

Van Roekel closed by adding, “Sean, thank you for being a leader in the classroom, in your school and in the education field. We are incredibly proud to have you as a member of the NEA family!”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste F. Busser
(202) 262-0589,


National Teacher of the Year: We are the 'Decisive Elements' in Student Lives