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

The National Education Association Foundation on Monday named Dan Ryder of Jay as a recipient of the prestigious 2019 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence.

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,” Ryder said. “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 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,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation, in a news release. “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.

“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,” she wrote.

“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 Educators Corp., an insurance holding company offering retirement products and auto, homeowners and life insurance to the nation’s education community. “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.

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

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 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. 

Horace Mann (1796-1859) was an American educational reformer and Whig politician dedicated to promoting public education. He served in the Massachusetts State legislature and was secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1848 to 1853. From September 1852 to his death, he served as president of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

The NEA Foundation is a public charity founded by educators for educators to improve public education for all students, according to its website.


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