Press Release – A message from the Massachusetts Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education – Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley today announced that Jennifer Hedrington, a seventh-grade math teacher at Ferryway School in Malden, is the 2021 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.
The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program is the state’s top award for educators and annually recognizes excellence in teaching across the Commonwealth by selecting a teacher who exemplifies the dedication, commitment and positive contributions of educators statewide.
Ms. Hedrington is the 59th recipient of this award and automatically becomes Massachusetts’ candidate for the National Teacher of the Year program.
“The relationships that teachers like Ms. Hedrington build with their students and their students’ families are important to children’s growth and development and have been made more critical as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “I am pleased to see Ms. Hedrington recognized for her work, and I know that she represents many other dedicated educators across the Commonwealth”
“As co-chair of the STEM Advisory Council, I recognize the importance and value of engaging science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in our classrooms throughout the Commonwealth,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Ms. Hedrington is an excellent math teacher who is committed to providing her students with access and opportunity.”
Ms. Hedrington is in her 16th year of teaching secondary school mathematics and her 10th year of teaching in Malden. She works hard to develop lessons that promote higher order thinking skills and that encourage her students to explore mathematical concepts, and she also teaches her students’ whole selves. She takes time for “commercial breaks” during her math lessons to discuss issues that are affecting the school or larger community. She supported students when they spoke to the School Committee to address racist incidents, and she has delivered professional development presentations about trauma-informed classrooms. One year, she created the League of Distinguished Gentleman to promote participants’ engagement and growth in their community and school.
In addition to her excellence in the classroom, Ms. Hedrington also helps bring the community into the school. During Black History Month, she prioritized involving students’ families in the celebration, and she encourages her students to engage with the community beyond the school walls, whether by gathering donated pencils for a school in Tanzania or by fundraising for a child in Ghana who needed eye surgery.
“Ms. Hedrington is a wonderful advocate for her students, whether the subject is math or life,” said Education Secretary James Peyser. “It is a pleasure to recognize her contributions to Malden and its students with this honor.”
“Beyond math, Ms. Hedrington’s work includes empowering students and improving her school,” saidElementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley. “I am pleased to present this honor to someone who brings so much joy to her work.”
“As co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education, I know that Massachusetts is lucky to have many, many strong educators, and I’m thrilled that Ms. Hedrington, who works right here in Malden, is being honored and will represent all of them,” said Senator Jason M. Lewis.
“The future and success of the Commonwealth and country depend on our children and education system,” said Senator Dean A. Tran. “Once again, I am delighted to celebrate an outstanding educator from my district whose devotion to our students is unparalleled. Ms. Hedrington’s commitment and dedication to our students are the reasons why I have confidence in our future.”
“Each day, Ms. Hedrington seizes the opportunity that all educators have to profoundly impact the lives of their students both in and outside the classroom,” said Representative Steven Ultrino, Ed.D. “As an educator, I understand how much hard work goes into the exemplary education that Ms. Hedrington provides for our students here in Malden, and I’m proud to see her recognized for this work that so often goes unseen.”
“As a former seventh-grade teacher myself and the mom of a second grader, I know the kind of difference an amazing teacher can have in her students’ lives,” said Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian. “I extend my sincerest congratulations to Ms. Hedrington on receiving the state’s highest award for educators in recognition of her incredible impact on the students of Malden and beyond.”
“Massachusetts is lucky to have teachers like Ms. Hedrington in our schools,” said Representative Paul J. Donato. “I am happy she chose to teach in Malden, and I know that she and her students will continue to accomplish remarkable things.”
The selection process for the 2021 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year began in fall 2019 with a call for nominations from administrators, teachers, students, parents and others. An initial review of each nominated teacher’s written application led to the selection of 12 semifinalists, who then submitted additional supporting material. Four finalists were selected and interviewed by a panel that included past Massachusetts Teachers of the Year. That panel then recommended one finalist to Commissioner Riley.
In addition to Ms. Hedrington, the finalists for this year’s award were:
- Kelley Brown, a social studies and government teacher at Easthampton High School;
- Alicia M. Lopez Nieto, an English learner teacher and curriculum leader at Amherst Regional Middle School; and
- Laverne Mickens, a third grade teacher at the Rebecca M. Johnson School in Springfield.
The semifinalists were:
- Danielle Charbonneau, an English teacher in the Project Vine Alternative Program at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School;
- Whitney Cleary, a fifth grade science teacher at the J. Turner Hood School in North Reading;
- Diana Kinney, a fifth grade teacher at Cottage Street School in Sharon;
- Adele McCarthy, a seventh grade English teacher at Lester J. Gates Middle School in Scituate;
- Victoria Miles, a math teacher at Middleborough High School;
- Luis Rosado, a sixth grade math teacher at UP Academy Leonard, part of the Lawrence Public Schools;
- Sheila Slawiak, a digital literacy/digital citizenship and computer science teacher at Wilbraham Middle School; and
- Matthew Williams, a culinary arts teacher at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Upton.
In lieu of an in-person celebration, this year, DESE plans to release a brief video featuring Ms. Hedrington, the finalists, semifinalists, the Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year, finalists and winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, and the state’s most recent Milken Award winner.
“Ms. Hedrington is an asset to both Malden Public Schools and to the community,” said Malden Mayor Gary Christenson. “I’m grateful for all she has done for Malden students, and I’m thrilled to see her recognized in this way.”
“Ms. Hedrington is an outstanding educator who is a true leader of students and staff in Malden,” said Malden Superintendent John Oteri. “She leads from the classroom and gives her students a greater voice in school and in the community.”
“I once had the pleasure of teaching in the room beside Ms. Hedrington’s, and I learned quickly how good she was at making the classroom welcoming for all students,” said Ferryway School Principal Abdel Sepúlveda. “She teaches math, but this award recognizes her ability to go beyond that and inspire students for life.”
About Jennifer Hedrington
Jennifer Hedrington holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Atlantic Union College and a juris doctorate from the Massachusetts School of Law.
She measures her students’ achievement in how they apply their education outside the classroom. “Lasting education is one that changes you to then want to change the world,” she wrote in her application.
Ms. Hedrington, a native and resident of Lancaster, has taught in Malden and Revere, as well as in Houston, Texas and Baltimore, Md.