Man who left accounting job to teach now first Black man to be Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

Dollita Okine November 16, 2023
De'Shawn Washington makes history. Photo: Massachusetts Teachers Association

De’Shawn Washington, a fourth-grade inclusion teacher at Maria Hastings Elementary School, has made history by becoming the first Black male recipient of the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year award for 2024. 

The 32-year-old is the fourth teacher in Lexington to receive the award and the 62nd recipient of the highest educational honor bestowed by the Commonwealth. The award honors a teacher from across the state who exemplifies excellence in the classroom and promotes a healthy culture in the school community.

He told The Lexington Observer, “There are a lot of emotions. It’s not just a win for me; it’s a win for the town of Lexington and many teachers of color all around Massachusetts.”

Students cheered as his name was announced during a ceremony held at the school’s gymnasium last Friday. His mother, Melanie Evans, whom he had invited, witnessed the celebration of her son with tears in her eyes as coworkers and representatives from the Hyde Park and Roxbury communities of Lexington and Boston gathered.

As the state’s teacher of the year, Washington expressed his desire to become an ambassador of public education, sharing stories of other teachers’ work in their classrooms to enhance kids’ progress.

Washington is a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Community Input Team for the Lexington School District. The committee promotes knowledge of justice and action, as well as diversity and identity. 

For many years, he has also given workshops at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, to assist prospective teachers in passing their license examinations and becoming teachers in the state. 

Washington has seven years of experience as a schoolteacher, with four years spent at Maria Hastings. Before deciding to teach in Lexington, he taught third grade at the Boston-based Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot School.

Washington attended City on a Hill Charter Public School and graduated from UMass Boston with a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting. He began his career as an accountant at a law firm in Boston. However, understanding his true passion for education, Washington went to UMass Boston and received two master’s degrees, one in elementary school and one in special education.

“When you are called to do something in life, you walk in those shoes for what you’ve been called to do,” he said. 

Washington also stated that he is working on books on his professional experiences, such as his recognition as the first black male teacher of the year and ways to create changemakers. He is presently pursuing his doctorate in educational leadership and policy from Vanderbilt University.

In April, the trailblazer will go to Washington to compete in the National Teacher of the Year competition on behalf of Massachusetts.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 16, 2023


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