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National Teacher of the Year Inspires Saugerties Educators

Every day at the Codman Academy Charter Public School outside Boston, teacher Sydney Chaffee makes students feel like heroes. Chaffee has several college degrees, has been teaching for more than a decade, and was named National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers in April. But the influences that shaped her identity and career – the teachers who made her feel like a hero – can be found right here in Saugerties.

Chaffee, a 2001 graduate of Saugerties High School, returned to her hometown on September 5 to be the keynote speaker at the Superintendent’s Conference Day that precedes the start of each new school year.

“This place has stayed with me,” Chaffee told Saugerties Central School faculty and staff.

Drawing on the concept of the Hero’s Journey popularized by mythologist Joseph Campbell, Chaffee urged staff to use their influence to help students “think about their challenges as transformative rather than oppressive,” just as her Saugerties teachers did for her two decades ago.

“In third grade I learned that writing and art are therapy,” Chaffee said, recalling how she faced the challenge of getting glasses with help from Riccardi Elementary School teacher Joanne Arcadipane, who encouraged her to write and illustrate a book about her experiences with her new glasses. Arcadipane, Robert Rea, Michael Riley, and other teachers who supported and inspired Chaffee still teach in the District.

“These teachers helped me through my hero’s journey,” Chaffee said, highlighting ways that teachers can do the same now. “Everything you chose to do when I was in your classroom helped shape who I am. You helped set me on my path. All of you have the power to do that for your kids.”

Superintendent Seth Turner called Chaffee’s address “absolutely outstanding” and his impression was shared by the teachers, many of whom said they were eager to implement some of Chaffee’s wisdom this school year.

Chaffee was accompanied on her visit to Saugerties by New York State Teacher of the Year Amy Hysick, and was treated to a tour of Saugerties High School and a luncheon where she reconnected with former teachers and classmates, some of whom are also teachers and work in the District.

Sydney Chaffee speaks on stage at SHS

Superintendent Seth Turner, Sydney Chaffee, and Amy Hysick.

Class of 2001 grads talk.

Saugerties staff honor Sydney Chaffee