by Ricardo Castillo in

Life is not a straight line. The 2015 National Teacher of the Year, Shanna Peeples, for example, did not start out her career as a teacher. During an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Peeples confirmed that she, in fact, avoided teaching, taking on roles such as pet sitter, reporter and medical assistant to “resist” becoming a teacher.

“I think I was afraid of it because I knew I was going to love it in a way that was going to be
pretty consuming, and it was,” Peeples said. “As a reporter, I covered schools, and the more
I was in those classrooms, the more I wanted to stay in those classrooms. And so I thought
I just need to go ahead and get over myself and do this.” 

That decision to “get over” herself and enter the teaching profession has led to a career spanning 12 years, being honored at a ceremony at the White House and becoming a speaker at the 2015 National PTA Convention & Expo (see sidebar for further information). 

Peeples, who is currently an English teacher at Palo Duro High School, works with many students who speak English as a second language or have recently entered the United States, as Amarillo is one of several cities in the country that helps refugees find new paths in life and gain access to critical resources. She reaches her students through a variety of teaching methods and helps them achieve their full potential in the classroom and beyond.

“She sees passed any front that a student may put on, helps them discover their dreams and
their goals and then pushes them to help them achieve them,” Peeples’ former student Kayla Storrs told “CBS This Morning.” Storrs is currently a University of Kentucky graduate student.

Another former student of Peeples’, Viet Tran, also praised her for her continued support. “Miss Peeples’ faith in me to achieve great things and to do great things and to be great has never faltered,” Tran told “CBS This Morning,” adding, “And even now she is still advocating for me even though I am a junior at Harvard and well out of her class.”

“I think what it takes to make a great teacher is somebody who just loves what they do and who loves kids and who loves to bring out the potential in every kid,” Peeples told “CBS This Morning.” “You can help write the end of the story for every kid and that’s the most exciting and the most privileging thing about doing this job.”

This dedication to helping every child reach his/her full potential as well as her commitment
to mentoring her colleagues to help them grow in the teaching profession was acknowledged in April when Peeples, along with all her 2015 State Teachers of the Year, was honored by resident Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House. National PTA President Otha Thornton who participated in the ceremony and served on the selection committee for the National Teacher of the Year Program also praised Shanna for her positive impact on her students.

“Shanna, and teachers like her across the country, touch the lives of students every day, and
their work and impact extends far beyond the boundaries of the classroom,” Thornton said. “National PTA salutes Shanna and all of the 2015 State Teachers of the Year for going above and beyond to ensure every child succeeds and every child’s dreams become a reality.”

The National Teacher of the Year Program is run by the Council of Chief State School Officers
(CCSSO) and presented by Voya Financial. Through the program CCSSO identifies the best teachers in the country, recognizes their effective work in the classroom, amplifies their voices and empowers them to participate in policy discussions at the state and national levels. 

“It is clear why Shanna was selected to be the 2015 National Teacher of the Year: Shanna’s dedication to teaching is all-encompassing, from the countless hours she devotes to helping every child in her classroom to the time she spends mentoring colleagues in her school district,” Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO said. “I look forward to seeing Shanna engage people across the country in a conversation about how to improve education as she shares her vision of supporting all students and teachers.”

“We’re proud to sponsor programs like National Teacher of the Year, which acknowledge the talented professionals who educate and empower tomorrow’s workforce,” Carolyn Johnson, president of Annuities and Tax-Exempt Markets, Voya Financial said, adding that Voya would like to congratulate both Shanna and the 2015 State Teacher of the Year winners for “their outstanding accomplishments and strong commitment to the profession.”

“I choose to think that, as National Teacher of the Year, I represent the people who love what they do; who are willing to do whatever it takes to help kids; who stay after school for hours; who steal time from their own families to help our kids; who may be the only person that shows up at games for a kid, or at plays, at concerts. For many kids, teachers are the only person for them,” Peeples said. “And so to me, the title of Teacher of the Year is a way for me to always talk about what teachers do for our kids. And I am exceedingly proud of the honor of representing men and women who pour themselves into this, the most important job there is.”

For more information about the National Teacher of the Year Program and to view a list of the 2015 State Teachers of the Year, visit the Council of Chief State School Officers’ website at •

Shanna Peeples Photo source Voya Financial, Inc.

Shanna Peeples
Photo source Voya Financial, Inc.

It is clear why Shanna was selected to be the 2015 National Teacher of the Year: Shanna’s dedication to teaching is all-encompassing, from the countless hours she devotes to helping every child in her classroom to the time she spends mentoring colleagues in her school district.
— Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers
Shanna, and teachers like her across the country, touch the lives of students every day, and their work and impact extends far beyond the boundaries of the classroom. National PTA salutes Shanna and all of the 2015 State Teachers
of the Year for going above and beyond to ensure every child succeeds and every child’s dreams become a reality.
— National PTA President Otha Thornton