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Oberlin High School celebrates teacher Kurt Russell after being named National Teacher of the Year

The national recognition comes after Russell had previously been named teacher of the year by the Oberlin Heritage Center and Oberlin chapter of the NAACP.

OBERLIN, Ohio — Oberlin High School is celebrating one of their own as history teacher Kurt Russell has been named the National Teacher of the Year.

A special celebration was held in Russell's honor Thursday morning inside Oberlin High School’s auditorium. We streamed live footage of the celebration, which you can watch in the player below.

“I am truly humbled and honored to be selected as the National Teacher of the Year,” Russell said. “With this recognition, I hope to bring attention and awareness to the importance of diverse faculty and representative curriculum that helps students feel more empowered in their education.”

The National Teacher of the Year program is operated by the Council of Chief State School Officers is aimed at recognizing and honoring exceptional educators across the country.

“Kurt’s extensive career shows the power of educators to shape the lives of students from the classroom to extracurricular activities to the basketball court,” said CCSSO Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller. “Dedicated educators like Kurt will be key to helping students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and set them up for success in college and careers. CCSSO has been honored to support excellent educators through the National Teacher of the Year Program since the first National Teacher of the Year was recognized 70 years ago.”

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Here's how the selection process works, according to CCSSO: Every year, exemplary teachers from each state, U.S. extra-state territories, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity are selected as State Teachers of the Year. From that group, the National Teacher of the Year is chosen by a selection committee composed of 17 individuals and education organizations.

Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous story about Russell on Feb. 21, 2022.

“Kurt is a powerful advocate who always puts students at the center of his work,” the selection committee said. “With more than two decades in the classroom and strong connections to his community, he speaks with warmth and honesty on how schools can best meet students’ needs. Kurt will be a passionate and authentic voice for teachers and students as 2022 National Teacher of the Year.”

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The national honor comes after Russell had previously been named teacher of the year by the Oberlin Heritage Center and Oberlin chapter of the NAACP.

Here is how CCSSO describes Russell’s achievement as national teacher of the year:

A 25-year veteran of the classroom, Kurt Russell was first inspired to become a teacher in middle school, when he encountered his first Black male teacher. Now as 2022 National Teacher of the Year, he plans to advocate for classrooms to better reflect the students within them — from a curriculum that reflects their backgrounds and identities to a more diverse teaching profession. 

Kurt teaches history at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio, where he was born and raised; his classes include African American history, which he has taught since the late 1990s, and Race, Gender and Oppression, a class he developed. He also serves as faculty advisor for the student-led Black Student Union, whose work has led to positive impacts for students across racial groups.

In addition to his classroom and extracurricular duties, Kurt is the head coach for the school’s varsity basketball team. He sees basketball as an extension of the classroom, and a place where young people can learn about working together and how to handle both adversity and success.  

Kurt holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history and a minor in Black studies from the College of Wooster and a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from Ashland University. He continues to take courses in child development at Oakland City University. 

He was previously recognized as teacher of the year by the Oberlin Heritage Center and the Oberlin chapter of the NAACP, and as Lorain County Basketball Association Coach of the Year and the Northeast Ohio Coach of the Year.  

Kurt lives with his wife, Donna, in Oberlin. They are the parents of two adult sons, Kurt Junior (KJ) and Korey. Kurt enjoys reading non-fiction and traveling.

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