It was a great day at Maryvale High School in Phoenix as the 2019 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year®, Kareem Neal, learned he had been inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame. The surprise ceremony took place on April 11th at Neal’s school, as family, friends, and fellow AEF Arizona Teachers of the Year and AEF staff joined in the celebration. Neal is the first teacher from Arizona to be inducted into The National Teachers Hall of Fame.
A veteran teacher of 23-years, Neal is a Special Education teacher for 9th through 12th graders at Maryvale High in the Phoenix Union High School District. Neal is one of only five teachers from throughout the U.S. to be inducted into The National Teachers Hall of Fame in 2022. In June, Neal will join the four other educators from New Jersey, California, Ohio, and Connecticut for a series of recognition events in Emporia, Kansas, which include presenting a livestreamed roundtable discussion, participating in community events, helping to re-dedicate the National Memorial to Fallen Educators, and being honored at the banquet and induction ceremony. The five inductees will also be honored at a reception hosted in May by the National Education Association at their Washington, D.C. headquarters—as a follow-up to Teacher Appreciation Week.
Richard Knoeppel, a 2019 inductee, nominated Neal with these words: “Kareem Neal has dedicated his career to helping students with severe cognitive disabilities, embracing diversity, and supporting young Black students, encouraging them to become educators. He works tirelessly elevating education and serving others, through advocacy, mentoring, and raising awareness.”
Dr. Pam Roggeman, AEF Board President was also on-hand for the ceremony and had these words to share: “We could not be more thrilled for Kareem to have this recognition. Since becoming the AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year in 2019, he has been a tireless advocate for special education and restorative justice practices. He is a tremendous leader in our state and a sought-after speaker and facilitator for organizations and education institutions throughout the nation. We’re so proud of him and all that he has accomplished.”
AEF Executive Director, Kim Graham, who was present at the ceremony, stated: “The AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year program is all about elevating the teaching profession and building awareness around the incredible impact that public school teachers make every single day in their classrooms and beyond. Kareem is a tremendous education leader and public school advocate who has dedicated his life to teaching.”
Kareem Neal describes his teaching philosophy for his self-contained Special Education classroom: “When students leave my class, I want them not to have to rely on other people to do everything for them. That is number one. Our work in my class is validated by the number of students who are currently working in the community near school or are doing sheltered employment rather than living in a group home, staying at home, or attending day programs. My classroom community and structure allow for the students to thrive in roles that they wouldn’t traditionally thrive in.”
The five educators to be inducted were selected for the Class of 2022 by a national selection committee which met in February. “The selection committee is composed of representatives from national educational organizations, corporate partners, and NTHF membership. The committee evaluates the nominees on responses to questions regarding their professional profile, their teaching both inside and outside the classroom, educational issues and accountability,” said Carol Strickland, Executive Director of the NTHF. “It’s always a tough decision because all of the twenty semi-finalists are deserving. The committee carefully examines what each candidate has done and is doing for the teaching profession as they try to determine finalists and then inductees. This is truly an honor to be named as one of only five teachers to be selected this year.”
The National Teachers Hall of Fame was founded in Emporia in 1989 to honor teachers and the teaching profession through a recognition program and museum. Nominees must be certified public or non-public schoolteachers, active or retired, with at least 20 years of experience in teaching grades preK-12. Since the inaugural induction ceremonies in 1992, 140 educators from 40 states and the District of Columbia have been inducted. This year’s class of inductees represents the 30th anniversary of NTHF induction ceremonies when the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2022 will be inducted. Inducted alphabetically, Mr. Neal will be number 149 to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Some of the major awards each inductee will receive include:
· A signet ring and lapel pin presented by Herff Jones, Inc. (Indianapolis, Indiana)
· A large bronze sculpture of the bell tower (the NTHF logo)
· A framed personalized print of a one-room schoolhouse classroom from American Fidelity
· Featured presentations at the Pegasus Springs Education Summit in Orlando, June 26-29
Biographies of Neal and the other class of 2022 teachers will be available at www.nthf.org on April 15. To request biographies and/or photos, please call the Hall of Fame at (620) 341-5660. A list of current Hall of Fame members and schedules for the 30th Annual Induction may be found on the website or by calling the Hall of Fame.