Jennifer Hedrington, a seventh-grade math teacher at the Ferryway School in Malden, has been named the 2021 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.
Hedrington, a member of the Malden Education Association, has taught in the city for 11 years. Before moving to the Malden Public Schools, she taught in Revere, Baltimore and Houston.
Hedrington, a native and resident of Lancaster, holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Atlantic Union College and a law degree from the Massachusetts School of Law.
“What drives me every day is that I want to become the teacher that I needed when I was in school.”Jennifer Hedrington, 2021 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year
The statewide honor is presented annually to a Massachusetts teacher who reflects the positive contributions made by educators across the Commonwealth and who exemplifies dedication and a strong commitment to the profession.
In introducing Hedrington at today’s meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said that 120 educators were nominated for the award. Hedrington, Riley said, was the unanimous choice of a screening committee that included the past four Teachers of the Year and four Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff members.
In addition to teaching math, Hedrington encourages her students to become leaders in community service. She supports them when they speak out about social and racial injustices and involves their families in activities such as Black History Month.
Hedrington was accompanied to the ceremony by her husband and two sons. She thanked her principal, Abdel Sepulveda, who she said “has given me the space to teach in color through the lenses of love.”
She also offered gratitude to her students. “I want to represent them, “ she said. “They are the reason that I am here.”
Hedrington remarked that she is still growing as an educator, adding: “What drives me every day is that I want to become the teacher that I needed when I was in school.”
She said she tells her fellow educators, “We are superheroes.”
Yet the most important piece of teaching, she said, is honoring the relationship that exists between educators and students. “I can get them to understand the numbers,” she said, but that is not where the real teaching happens.
Outside DESE headquarters, Hedrington said she was “still in shock.”
“I’m humbled, and I’m grateful,” she said. “I represent what we do for our students in Malden every day.”
Deb Gesualdo, president of the Malden Education Association, said Hedrington “is an excellent educator and a phenomenal human being who cares deeply about her students and the people around her.”
“As an educator of color,” Gesualdo continued, “she continues to push for inclusion and equity in our schools — and not just the recognition of diversity. I can’t even imagine how tiring all of that is in the world we now live in — and in the age of COVID-19.”
Hedrington is the 59th recipient of the award. She automatically becomes the Massachusetts candidate for National Teacher of the Year.
Finalists for this year’s award, all MTA members, included Kelley Brown, a social studies and government teacher at Easthampton High School; Alicia 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.