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Sydney Chaffee Speaks at Neal Marshall Black Culture Center

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    Sarah Norris

Sydney Chaffee teaches at Codman Academy Charter Public School (an EL Education Credentialed School) in Dorcester, Massachusetts. She is a former Fund For Teachers Fellow and the 2017 National Teacher of the Year.

If you’ve seen Sydney Chaffee’s speech from the EL Education National Conference, you will not be surprised at the message she offers to groups around the country on her sabbatical year: “Students want to change the world, and teachers can help them grow into empowered adults.”

Sydney was recently at Indiana University, speaking to a group at the Neal Marshall Black Culture Center. She shared her own stories as well as those of other teachers who view their charge as developing student agency and offering avenues in which to exercise it.

Chaffee In Indiana


From the event write-up in the Indiana Daily Student:  One high school history class noticed the same picture of Frederick Douglass would show up when they searched online for images of Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey. All three black men were identified as the same image, even in important articles and books. Their teacher encouraged them to pursue the topic and had them call publishers, editors and Google representatives to try and find out why this had happened.

“When students engage in activism, when they engage in the work of changing the world, they build critical thinking skills and they build leadership skills,” Chaffee said. “Working for justice and engaging in activism correlates positively with their political participation later in life.”

We’re so heartened that the National Teacher of the Year is using her platform to speak on the development of student agency, and beyond proud that she is part of the EL Education family. 

Read more about the event here