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May 27, 2014

Meet the National Kind Teacher of the Year

New Jersey middle and high school teacher leads her students in helping homeless pets and local animal shelters

  • Jessica Sears was named 2014 National Kind Teacher of the Year. J. Sears

We’re pleased to announce that Jessica Sears, an English/Language Arts Literacy teacher in Elmer, New Jersey, is our 2014 National Kind Teacher of the Year award winner. Ms. Sears, who works with emotionally and behaviorally challenged students in grades 7-12, started a program called Research, Educate, Act, Create, Help! (R.E.A.C.H!), through which she leads students in supporting their local animal shelters and rescue groups.

Sears’ students visited the Salem County Humane Society, where they learned about some of the pets up for adoption and shot videos to create adoption PSAs. Students also work with area shelters to advertise adoptable pets online and have held donation drives for food, toys, blankets and towels to distribute to the shelters.

The program has not only improved students' academic performance but also inspires them to help others. “It’s so wonderful to see them actually feel the empowerment and… realize that they’re making a positive difference," says Sears. "I remember their eyes during the donation drives before the holidays. It was an absolute joy for them to see people bringing bags and bags of stuff and to take the final haul to the humane society. To facilitate that is the ultimate gift as a teacher.”

About the award

The National Kind Teacher Award Program honors pre K-12 classroom teachers who include humane lessons in the curriculum or inspire students to act on behalf of animals in an effective, innovative manner. The Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates have given this award annually since 1981, recognizing outstanding teachers who consistently incorporate humane education into the curriculum and/or motivate students to get involved in community service for animals.

To nominate yourself or another Pre-K-12 teacher for this award, please fill out our online nomination form. The deadline for nominations is February 15, 2015, and the winner will be notified before the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

Past winners:

2013: Rhonda Sykes of Austell, Georgia
2011: Marcy Wells of Portland, Oregon
2010: Melanie Brewer of Excelsior Springs, Missouri
2009: Debra Corbett of Louisville, Kentucky
2008: Jeffery Fessler of Palm Beach, Florida

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