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NEA member Shanna Peeples named 2015 National Teacher of the Year

Teacher whose students are survivors of debilitating trauma, inspires their imaginations, ‘desire to learn’

WASHINGTON - April 27, 2015 -

NEA member Shanna Peeples, an English teacher at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas, has been named the 2015 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers. She will serve for one year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for public education.

“On behalf of the National Education Association and its 3 million members, I congratulate Shanna Peeples on being named this year’s National Teacher of the Year,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, a sixth grade teacher who was named the 1989 Utah Teacher of the Year. “School is a place where discovery happens, and where tomorrow’s inventors, thinkers, artists and leaders are growing. Shanna is a shining example of the educators who nurture their students’ potential and help them realize their dreams.”

Peeples worked as a disc jockey, medical assistant, pet sitter and journalist; those experiences were successful but left her wanting more. Peeples later became a classroom teacher, a profession that she says eventually chose her. She taught seventh grade English Language Arts for about six years before moving to high school. Peeples teaches AP English and serves as the English department chair as well as an instructional coach for other teachers.

“My students, survivors of deep and debilitating trauma, have shaped the kind of teacher I am,” said Peeples. “They have taught me to never make a promise I can’t keep because so many already have learned to see the world through suspicious eyes. To be the best teacher to them, I have to remember this and honor their background. I remember so I can gain their trust because I want them to read and write their way out of where they are.”

A 12-year classroom veteran, Peeples is a member of NEA’s local and state affiliates, the Amarillo Education Association and the Texas State Teachers Association, respectively. Peeples recently delivered a passionate speech at TSTA’s annual convention where she was honored with its Ermalee Boice Instructional Advocacy Award. Peeples’ students come from diverse backgrounds, as Amarillo is one of several cities in the country that helps refugees find new paths in life and gain access to critical resources. As a result, she works with many students who speak English as a second language or have recently entered the United States.

“Shanna serves as a great example of how teachers transform the lives of their students every day,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “Shanna’s ability to motivate and instill a love of learning among her students—regardless of her students’ backgrounds or the languages they speak—is the reason Shanna and thousands of other teachers like her have earned the respect of Americans who appreciate the great work teachers do every day in every community in our great nation.”

Continuing a long tradition of excellence in the classroom, Peeples is the 10th NEA member in the past decade to be named the nation’s top teacher. As the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, Peeples will spend a year traveling the nation to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers. She also hopes to use the opportunity to shape the conversation about reaching students in poverty, as well as those who have already faced extreme challenges, through a variety of teaching methods.

“No bubble test can measure a kid’s curiosity. So much happens at school that shapes our children’s tomorrows, and therefore we must instill a love of learning, foster creativity, and teach critical thinking skills,” added Eskelsen García. “Great teachers like Shanna help inspire students’ imaginations, natural curiosity and desire to learn. Of all the things we teach our kids, the most important is a love of learning.”

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

CONTACT: Staci Maiers, NEA Communications (202) 270-5333 cell,