Meet the National Teacher Hall of Fame Class of 2017

national teachers hall of fame

The National Teachers Hall of Fame, founded in 1989 by Emporia State University, recognizes dedicated and successful educators across the United States. Located on Emporia State University campus in Kansas, the Hall of Fame honors teachers with a gallery of previous honorees, a Wall of Fame, a museum and resource center that tell the “story” of education through antique textbooks, teacher contracts and other artifacts.

The six new inductees were celebrated at an event at the National Education Association on April 28..

Meet the members of the National Teachers Hall of Fame Class of 2017:

Ashli Skura Dreher is a special education teacher at Lewiston-Porter High School in Youngstown, New York. For 21 years, Dreher has taught students with moderate intellectual and developmental disabilities such as CP autism and Down syndrome, focusing on a combination of academic and daily living skills, until they age off the program at 21. Presently, she is pursuing a Doctorate at the University of Rochester’s Teaching and Curriculum Department, where she is learning more about developing this life skills program to meet individual student needs. Her goal is to make her students as independent as possible so that they can be a vibrant and vital part of their own communities.

Her efforts with her students and close collaboration with their parents had not gone unnoticed, and in 2014, she was awarded the NYS Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year Award. More recently, Dreher also started to develop, host and help produce an education television program called Inside the Classroom, which is shown on several stations throughout New York.

Dr. Jonathan Gillentine is an Early Learning Resource Teacher at the Executive Office on Early Learning at the University of Hawaii. After 36 years of educating preschoolers, Gillentine decided to leave the classroom and work as an Early Learning Specialist for the Windward School District on the North Coast of Oahu. He taught his new “students”– elementary school principals, academic coaches and curriculum counselors– about appropriate early education practices to be able to better understand the relevance of early childhood development and support their teachers who work with young children.

Gillentine is a National Board Certified teacher and a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Early Childhood – Generalist. In 2014, Gillentine became Hawaii’s first licensed Teacher Leader, a new license field created to recognize Hawaii teachers who serve in a leadership capacity other than school administration. Among many awards, he received the 2012 Horace Mann Award from the National Education Association Foundation and traveled to China as a Pearson Global Learning Fellow. Later that year he was selected as an America Achieves Teacher Fellow.

Matinga Ragatz is a Professional Learning Consultant at Communications by Design in Ada, Michigan.  For 22 years, Ragatz was a Global Studies, History and World Language teacher for grades 9-12 at Grand Ledge High School in Grand Ledge, Michigan. As a teacher, Ragatz always tried to be an intuitive teacher and found technology to be an aide in her classroom. She became innovative with her teaching model, assimilating traditional education with new technologies and 21st century pedagogy. Ragatz began looking for ways to make a significant contribution within instructional design and development of blended, flipped, project-based learning and online educational models on a more global scale. She does so today through national and international conference presentations, consultations, teacher training sessions, and by helping others in the global community develop their own hybrid courses.

In 2008, Ragatz received Microsoft’s Innovative Teacher Award and represented the United States in Hong Kong, China at the International Innovative Teacher Forum.  In 2009, she received accolades at the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL), one of the nation’s top technology conferences. In 2010, she was named Michigan Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Department of Education.

“Matinga is a seasoned professional. She knows good teaching and learning,” says Sara Easter, President, Communications by Design. “She is not afraid to ‘think outside the box’ and make courageous decisions. There is no doubt in my mind that in the future when we look back, Matinga’s fingerprints will be all over changing the world.”

Joseph D. Ruhl is a Biology teacher at Jefferson High School in Lafayette, Indiana. For 38 years, Ruhl has been sharing the joys of biology with his students and making sure they have choices in the classroom that suit their learning styles. To inspire and motivate students to learn, Rohl believes that we must allow students to involve themselves in the classroom in student choice, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

Mark Preston, principal of Jefferson High, calls Ruhl “the example of the 21st century teacher” – even though he has been doing it for more than 30 years. “Joe represents the kind of mastery of true pedagogy that all teachers should strive to reach but few actually do,” says Preston.

Ruhl has received many awards and honors throughout his teaching career. The National Association of Biology Teachers named Ruhl the Outstanding Biology Teacher of Indiana in 1987. He was honored at the White House as Indiana’s recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching in 1989.  In 2014, Ruhl was a TEDx Lafayette Speaker, lecturing about how to inspire students of the future. Most recently, in 2015, the National Science Teachers Association presented him with the Robert E. Yager Foundation Excellence In Teaching Award.

Bob Williams is currently working with the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development Commissioner to help improve student learning, ensure excellence, develop partnerships with tribes, and promote safety and well-being.

For 29 years, Williams was a high school Math teacher at Colony High School in Palmer, Alaska. His passion and excitement for math transmitted to his students and motivated his students for math. He taught his students with innovative techniques, such as math chants that students thought were silly at first but then realized they were very useful to remember math concepts in the long run. Williams believes his motivation comes from asking himself, “how do I improve quality of what I’m doing, how do I increase the capacity to make a difference, and how do I build trust, whether its with the students, the families, or their parents.”

Williams was chosen as Alaska’s Teacher of the Year and was honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, both in 2009.  In 2010, he was one of five national finalists for the 2010 NEA Foundation Teaching Excellence award. Williams is also the president of the Alaska Council of Teachers of Mathematics and an Aspen Teacher Leader Fellow.

Saul Ramos, a paraeducator with Worcester Public Schools in Massachusetts, is a multi-skilled professional with a wide-range of interests. For more than 18 years, the self-taught braillist currently serves at Burncoat High School transcribing school materials and classwork of visually impaired students into print or braille, a writing system in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots that are felt with the fingertips.

Ramos was named the 2017 National Education Association (NEA) Education Support Professional of the Year in April 2017.

“As a paraeducator working with visually impaired students, Saul brings many skills to the Worcester Public Schools,” says Jean Fay, President, Amherst Pelham Education Association. He makes sure his students know ‘they are capable of accomplishing anything any other student can do.’”

Ramos has created awareness of Latino culture by founding the nonprofit Arte Latino of New England where he serves as artistic director. He is also co-executive director of the Providence Latin American Film Festival in Rhode Island. The newly elected mayor of Providence recently appointed Ramos to the transition team for education, arts, and culture.

John Rosales contributed to this story.