AFT members among finalists for teacher of the year

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State teachers of the year gathered in Washington, D.C., May 1 to be recognized for their remarkable contributions to the classroom and to name a new national teacher of the year—an award that included two AFT members among the four finalists.

Dorina Sackman, Florida

Dorina Sackman, Florida's 2104 teacher of the year, was a finalist, as was Melissa Ann Porfirio, Virginia's 2014 teacher of the year. (Sackman is on the left, and Porforio on the right, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan.) Both were among the outstanding educators—teachers of the year in their home states—who traveled to the White House for a ceremony in which Sean McComb, an English teacher at Patapsco High School in Baltimore County, Md. was named teacher of the year. He told the crowd, "We stand here because of those important people who invested in us, and we stand here ready to invest in each and every child."

It was a sentiment shared broadly by the teachers standing with President Obama and Secretary Duncan at the ceremony.

"It's incredible to be part of so many dedicated, dynamic teachers—and to represent my students" on this national stage, said Porfirio, a member of the Fairfax (Va.) Federation of Teachers. Porfirio has won several awards over her career and has taken a leadership role in staff development training and as a cohort facilitator and mentor for first-year teachers.

"Doing what you love doing, and being recognized like this—[it's] just an amazing day!" said Sackman, a member of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. An avid traveler who speaks five languages, Sackman is deeply involved in staff development related to English language learners and also has built a reputation for inspiring students to become actively involved in their communities. That spirit of helping others also is mirrored in union membership for educators, added Sackman. Unions give teachers one way of "being a part of everyone—and that gives you options to reach out and higher."

[Mike Rose, CCSSO]