Kurt Russell, a history teacher at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio, has been named the 2022 National Teacher of the Year. He was selected from four finalists by the Council of Chief State School Officers.
"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," said Russell in an appearance on CBS Mornings on Tuesday (April 19), adding he is proud of his school district and he is proud of his students.
A Southerner by birth, Russell, who has been a teacher for 25 years, has lived through several historical events that come up in his classes. He said his life experience helped to shape his desire to become a history teacher.
"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 said.
The news of Russell receiving the accolade comes as schools are struggling to find more Black men to choose careers in education. According to The Washington Post, Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American teachers make up 17 percent of all U.S. public school teachers. Black men make up about 2 percent, according to the American Federation of Teachers. Meanwhile more than half of all public school pupils are students of color.
The honor of being named 2022 National Teacher of the Year brings the benefit of the chance to meet with educator and first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, at the White House. Russell said he plans to discuss the importance of diverse hiring within schools across the nation.
"My message is clear: to provide a diverse education opportunity for all students. When I mean diverse, representing faculty and staff as well," he said.