Clay Huffaker, a teacher at Chattanooga Christian School, has been named the 2023 Tennessee History Teacher of the Year, an award presented annually by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to K–12 American history education.
Inaugurated in 2004 and now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, the History Teacher of the Year award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school. The award honors one K–12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools, and US Territories.
“Knowledgeable and impassioned teachers bring our country’s history to life for students, allowing them to understand that engaging with history is about more than a series of facts,” said James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “Teachers are the lifeblood of our students’ education, and these are the best of the best.”
In addition to a $1,000 honorarium, Mr. Huffaker receives a core archive of American history books and Gilder Lehrman educational materials and recognition at a local ceremony in their honor, and becomes one of 53 finalists for the 2023 National History Teacher of the Year Award.
Mr. Huffaker has degrees in education with extensive coursework in history from Samford University, the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and the University of Nottingham (UK). As a middle school educator, Clay loves to teach history because it gives him a chance to investigate clues about students’ identities individually or as a community, and ultimately citizens of this nation. Mr. Huffaker incorporates local history and site visits into his curriculum, adding “The more our students know about the past, the more likely they are to care about and participate in what is currently facing the nation and world.”
Chattanooga Christian School’s Middle School principal Jim Arnold shares, “Clay is an excellent teacher…. The impact of his care for others, coupled with the passion, enthusiasm, and high level of competency he has in his content area, allows Clay to have significant impact in the community.”
As the Gilder Lehrman Institute celebrates twenty years recognizing National History Teachers of the Year, we look to this year’s state winners as part of a tradition of elevating history teachers across the nation.
Looking back on the effect of being named 2019 District of Columbia History Teacher of the Year and subsequently 2019 National History Teacher of the Year, Alysha Butler said, “Winning the GLI National History Teacher of the Year Award has helped me form connections with institutions and organizations far beyond my immediate professional and geographic scope that I have not been able to establish on my own in my 20 years of teaching.”
Said Karalee Nakatsuka, 2019 California History Teacher of the Year, “Among many opportunities, this recognition provided me the chance to write curriculum for the ground-breaking PBS Asian Americans miniseries.”
2010 National and Kansas History Teacher of the Year Nathan McAlister added, “I look back over the past ten years in awe of all that I have been privileged to experience—whether it was a private tour of the US Supreme Court, leading history workshops and seminars around the country, or simply being asked for my opinion as a history education authority.”
This year’s National History Teacher of the Year will be announced in fall 2023 and celebrated at a ceremony in New York City. The ceremony will feature Peabody and Emmy Award-winning ABC News Senior National Affairs Correspondent Deborah Roberts as its presenter. Roberts, a contributing anchor for 20/20, was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in May. She is also the author of the New York Times recent bestselling book Lessons Learned and Cherished: The Teacher Who Changed My Life.
Past presenters of the award include the Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, First Lady Laura Bush, former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Nominations for the 2024 History Teacher of the Year awards are now open. Students, parents, educators, and supervisors may nominate K–12 teachers by visiting gilderlehrman.org/nhtoy.