FARMINGTON — A Mt. Blue High School language arts teacher has been recognized as one of the nation’s top educators.

The NEA Foundation named Dan Ryder of Jay as a recipient of the prestigious 2019 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence Monday. Horace Mann representative Jake Kenyon surprised Ryder and his peers with the news during opening day activities for Regional School Unit 9 staff.

Maine Education Association president Grace Leavitt said, “It’s hard to imagine being more proud of anything than I am at this very moment. Dan’s passion, energy and enthusiasm knows no bounds. Now the whole world knows it.”

“Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions in the world,” said Ryder. “You see the best in humanity and see the future make mistakes and learn from them right before your eyes.”

In July the NEA Foundation announced  Ryder as one of 46 public educators nationwide to  earn the California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence. He was nominated for the award by the Maine Education Association, a National Education Association affiliate.

Ryder is one of five finalists to earn the prestigious award which honors “diligence and dedication to students, colleagues, community, and profession.”  He will travel to Washington, D.C. in February to receive the award and $10,000 during the foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, according to a news release.


“These five educators kindle ideas, open minds, nurture confidence, and build community. They keep the promise of public education by growing the hearts and minds of their students, preparing them for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation in a news release.

“By honoring them with this award, we thank them and all the public school educators they represent, who work tirelessly on behalf of their students, schools, and communities.”

“So many teachers go above and beyond to serve the needs of their students, and these five educators are great examples of what it takes to excel in the classroom,” said Marita Zuraitis, President and CEO of Horace Mann. “As a company serving educators’ financial needs for more than 70 years, Horace Mann is pleased to honor these educators for playing an instrumental role in educating the children of our future.”

The nation’s top educator will be revealed at the gala on Feb. 8, 2019, and receive an additional $25,000.

Ryder graduated from the University of Maine in Farmington in May 1998. He joined the Mt. Blue High School English Department shortly after and has been teaching at the high school ever since.

He has also taught as an adjunct instructor at UMF in the Middle and Secondary Education Department.


“This award does not happen with all the people sitting right here today,” Ryder told the audience.

The NEA Foundation is a “public charity founded by educators for educators to improve public education for all students. Since our beginning in 1969, the Foundation has served as a laboratory of learning, offering funding and other resources to public school educators, their schools, and districts to solve complex teaching and learning challenges.”

Horace Mann Horace Mann Educators Corporation is “the largest financial services company focused on providing America’s educators and school employees with insurance and retirement solutions.”

The gala will be live-streamed at Ryder’s students will help produce a video honoring their teacher, which will premiere at the gala.

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