De’Shawn Washington has made history: The fourth-grade inclusion teacher at Maria Hastings Elementary School became the first Black male recipient of the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year award for 2024.
Washington is the 62nd recipient and Lexington’s fourth teacher to receive the Commonwealth’s highest educational honor.
“There are a lot of emotions,” Washington, 32, said in an interview with the LexObserver. “It’s not just a win for me, it’s a win for the town of Lexington and many teachers of color all around Massachusetts.”
Washington was recognized in a ceremony at the school’s gymnasium last Friday. Students cheered as his name was announced in front of the audience. Washington invited his mother, Melanie Evans, to share the victory. Evans tearfully watched from the gymnasium’s sidelines and clapped in congratulations alongside a matching outpour from colleagues and representatives from Lexington and Boston’s Hyde Park and Roxbury neighborhoods, where he went to school himself.
The award recognizes an educator from across the state who demonstrates excellence in teaching and fostering a healthy culture in the school community.
As the state’s teacher of the year, Washington said he will become an ambassador of public education who will share the stories of other teachers’ work in their classrooms to develop students’ growth.
Washington paid homage to teachers who paved the way for his professional career and ability to “cultivate changemakers,” or students’ agency in building relationships, trust and community. In particular, Washington thanked Sean Guthrie, an educator of color, who hired him for his first teaching job after he switched from accounting. Guthrie helped Washington at the beginning of his teaching career through guidance on his performance with student engagement.
“(The award) is an opportunity for Massachusetts to see what great teachers look like, and now these stories can be told in particular for black men in elementary, middle and high schools,” Washington said.
In April, Washington will be heading to Washington to represent Massachusetts in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Washington has been teaching for seven years, four of which he has spent at Hasting Elementary. Before he decided to teach in Lexington, Washington was a third-grade teacher at Young Achievers Science And Math Pilot School in Boston.
As an inclusion teacher, Washington teaches the primary subjects of elementary academics, including for students with IEPs and students who are English-language learners. Washington said throughout his time in Lexington, he has found a home.
“My students have taught me so much about patience and how to build community, the importance of lasting relationships,” he said. “I am very fortunate to be able to serve a community that wants me and that I want to be a part of.”
Locally, Washington is a member of the Lexington school district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Community Input Team. The committee teaches lessons on diversity and identity, in addition to justice and action.
For the past several years, Washington has also taught workshops at the University of Massachusetts Boston to help aspiring teachers pass their licensing exams to become educators in the state.
Washington went to City on a Hill Charter Public School and earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from UMass Boston.
Initially, Washington worked as an accountant at a law firm in Boston. But he soon realized that his true calling was teaching. Later, Washington returned to UMass Boston and earned two master’s degrees — one in elementary education, and one in special education.
“When you are called to do something in life, you walk in those shoes for what you’ve been called to do,” he said.
What’s next? Washington is currently working on earning his doctorate in educational leadership and policy from Vanderbilt University, where he travels to Tennessee every few weeks to attend classes in person.
Washington said he is also writing books on the experiences of his professional career, including his win as the first black male teacher of the year and steps to cultivate changemakers.
“I am trusting the process of this walk that I am on right now and it is leading me to some very interesting places,” he said.