Kurt Russell, a history teacher in Ohio, has been announced as the 2022 National Teacher of the Year. The Oberlin High School teacher was among four finalists who were up for consideration for the award. And he was ultimately selected by the Council of Chief State School Officers.
“Kurt’s extensive career shows the power of educators to shape the lives of students from the classroom to extracurricular activities to the basketball court,” CCSSO Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller said in a statement.
In an interview with CBS News, Russell, who has been teaching for 25 years, said growing up in the South and experiencing multiple historical events influenced his decision to pursue a career as a history teacher. The Black educator also stated he’s always on the lookout for new methods to have conversations with students about societal issues.
“I try to make sure that my students have the most opportunity to learn, and the way I do that is through engagement — by allowing my students to see themselves in the curriculum, and by seeing themselves in the curriculum, students are growing.”
He added that his students are his inspiration. “Each and every day my children bring a scent of respect, a scent of an eagerness to learn, and I am just fortunate that I am part of this great education,” Russell said.
Some of Russell’s students also had good things to say about his teaching methods. They made mention of his focus on cultural relevance as well as representation during his lessons.
“He’s enthusiastic and relates his curriculum to real-world experiences,” an Oberlin High School senior said.
“He does a really good job of fostering conversations where everyone can have a perspective,” another student said.
The 2022 National Teacher of the Year is scheduled to go to the White House for a meeting with first lady Jill Biden. He said he intends to stress the importance of employing diverse educators in schools across the United States.
“My message is clear: to provide a diverse education opportunity for all students. When I mean diverse, representing faculty and staff as well,” Russell said.