Two National Board Certified Teachers announced as finalists for CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program

The Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has announced that two  National Board Certified teachers, Whitney Aragaki, NBCT from Hawai’i and Joseph Welch, NBCT from Pennsylvania, have been named as two of the four finalists for the 2022 National Teacher of the Year. 

Whitney Aragaki, the 2022 Hawai‘i Teacher of the Year, teaches high school science using cultural and place-based activities to engage students. She also works to provide equitable access to environmental science and computer science courses statewide. She has been National Board certified since 2014. 

In a recent social media post, Aragaki said, “It’s been 8 years since I certified, and yet I continue to return to the Core Propositions and clear, consistent, and convincing messaging in many of my daily interactions. The learning I did, do, and will revisit upon the MOC soon is meaningful and relevant.”

Joseph Welch, the 2022 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, teaches eighth grade U.S. history. He leverages technology to foster opportunities for students to access and creatively tell diverse stories from their communities and our nation’s past. He has been National Board Certified since 2011. 

CCSSO’s National of Teacher of the Year program highlights and celebrates exceptional educators from across the country, and gives the winner the opportunity to uplift educators, amplify their voices, and advocate for changes in the profession. National Board Certified teachers being recognized by this program showcases the exceptional nature of our teachers, and how the certification process can have such a positive impact on their teaching practices. 

Whitney Aragaki, 2022 Hawai‘i Teacher of the Year

Whitney Aragaki supports students to learn through a lens of abundance that honors place, people and cultures. Her teaching focuses around conversations, practices and systems that sustain the intimate inter-relationship of public education, community and environment. Returning to serve her high school alma mater, Aragaki teaches biology and environmental science at Waiakea High School in Hilo, Hawai‘i.

In partnership with the Hawai‘i Virtual Learning Network, Aragaki aims to provide equitable access to environmental science and computer science courses statewide. She is the daughter of two educators and was a student in her mother’s biology class. Aragaki’s two children thrive in this supportive public-school ecosystem.

Aragaki has a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Swarthmore College, and a Master of Science in tropical conservation biology and environmental science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She currently is at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa College of Education, where she is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy with a focus in curriculum and instruction.

Aragaki began her teaching career with support from the Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Aspiring Teachers of Color Fellowship and the National Science Foundation’s GK12 Fellowship. She is an alumna of the Hawai‘i State Teacher Fellowship and the National Education Association Teacher Leadership Institute. Aragaki is a National Board Certified teacher in adolescence and young adulthood mathematics, a Google-certified educator and a 2019 and 2021 state finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in mathematics and science teaching.

Joseph Welch, 2022 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year

Joe Welch is a National Board Certified Teacher and currently teaches eighth grade U.S. history at North Hills Middle School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has taught within the North Hills School District for 15 years, previously serving as seventh and eighth grade team leader for more than 10 years.

Welch holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, Bachelor of Arts in history, and Instructional Technology Specialist Certification from Duquesne University. He earned a Master of Arts in teaching from California University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned his Pennsylvania principal certification.

Currently serving as the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, Welch was named the 2019 National Middle Level Educator of the Year by the Association for Middle Level Education, as well as the 2019 Pennsylvania Social Studies Teacher of the Year. In 2018, he was honored as National History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

He often presents his experiences at regional, national and international conferences and has authored a book, Interpreting Primary Sources with Stop Motion. Welch was recently elected to his local school board and serves on teacher advisory councils for the National Constitution Center; the Gilder Lehrman Institute; and Penn State University’s Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Initiative.

An Apple Distinguished Educator and PBS Lead Digital Innovator, Welch is a strong believer in bringing equitable opportunities, diverse stories, personal emotions and community connections into lessons and in fostering experiences that promote student-led conversations to enact changes aligned to their passions and interests.