Success and Impact

Teachers of the Year Report Finds Honest Education Bolsters Crucial Student Engagement

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Award-winning teachers urge national implementation of honest education as culturally-relevant, student-affirming education shown to benefit an increasingly diverse student population

An inaugural report from the Voices for Honest Education Fellowship outlines expert research and data on why accurate and student-affirming education practices need implementation across the nation. The report, The Student-Affirming Education Needed for Our Children and Our Nation’s Future, released by the award winning educators of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year’s Voices for Honest Education, comes as attacks on honest education threaten the future of K-12 education. 

The most recent national post-COVID education data shows decreased achievement across racial groups, and Black students saw a disproportionate drop in math scores compared to their White counterparts.  In post-COVID education, robust student engagement, especially for children of color, is crucial to make up for lost learning opportunities and to ensure all students can succeed in school and in life. The report highlights significant research that supports expanding student-affirming, honest education practices that can yield greater student engagement, and lead to: 

  • Improved student attendance;
  • Higher test scores; 
  • Better GPAs; and 
  • Increased graduation rates.

Voices for Honest Education spotlights five award-winning state Teachers of the Year across America, passionate about preserving classrooms as spaces of student-centered honest dialogue to better support students as they navigate their own lives and connections with peers. As the report finds, it has never been more urgent to ensure access, inclusion, and meaningful content so that every student has an opportunity to succeed and thrive. This year’s Voices for Honest Education cohort includes:

  • Monica Washington, 2014 Texas Teacher of the Year
  • Tracey Nance, 2020-2021 Georgia Teacher of the Year 
  • Gerardo A. Muñoz, 2021 Colorado Teacher of the Year
  • Chris Dier, 2020 Louisiana Teacher of the Year and 2020 Finalist for National Teacher of the Year
  • Takeru “TK” Nagayoshi, 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and 2021 recipient of Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence

“Students should never have to question whether their classroom lessons are accurate, honest, and inclusive,” said Monica Washington, Leading Educator Ambassador for Equity for the Education Civil Rights Alliance. “This fellowship will help us empower educators and advocates across the country with the tools to fight the attempt to limit students’ access to the robust education they need to realize their dreams.”

“I know firsthand the responsibility educators have to teach the truth to their students,” said Chris Dier, a history teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans. “It is imperative that we honor this responsibility in the classroom and keep book-bans and censorship away from our schools.”

For the next year, the award-winning educators will embark on a mission to emphasize the critical importance of honest, affirming education through educator training, state legislative advocacy, speaking events, and social, digital, online, and print media engagements. 

To read the full report, click here, and to learn more about the Voices for Honest Education, click here.

The National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) envisions a transformed teaching profession that provides access to great teaching and learning for all students thereby dramatically improving student outcomes for college, career, and life. An organization of State Teachers of the Year and Finalists, we seek to transform the teaching profession by using our credible voice to support policies and practices that advance teacher leadership, educator effectiveness, and the conditions, capacity, and culture necessary to support great teaching and learning for all students. For more information, visit