Kurt Russell, a Black teacher from Oberlin, Ohio, has been named the 2022 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Russell, who has been teaching for nearly 25 years, is known for teaching with an emphasis on cultural relevance and representation. Since the late 1990s, he has been teaching African American history classes that he developed himself. He also developed classes such as Race, Gender, and Oppression and Black Music in the African Diaspora alongside a music teacher.
Now 50-years old, Russell teaches at Oberlin High School in his hometown in Ohio. He also serves as faculty advisor for the student-led Black Student Union and the head coach for the varsity basketball team in the school.
Russell said he began his interest in teaching when his kindergarten teacher read a picture book about Martin Luther King Jr. He was ultimately inspired to pursue the career when he met his first Black male teacher in middle school.
“He was someone who looked like me in front of the classroom who all the kids enjoyed,” Russell told CBS News.
“This seemed like a profession that I could enjoy. It just changed my life.”
He eventually took a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history and a minor in Black studies from the College of Wooster. He then earned his Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from Ashland University. He is currently taking courses in child development at Oakland City University.
Russell was previously named Ohio’s Teacher of the Year also by the Council of Chief State School Officers. He was also named Teacher of the Year by the Oberlin Heritage Center and the Oberlin chapter of the NAACP, and Coach of the Year at Northeast Ohio and Lorain County Basketball Association.
As Teacher of the Year, Russell aims to represent educators and advocate for a more diverse classroom for teachers and students.
This article first appeared on Blacknews.com.