SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. — In recognition of inspirational teaching nationwide, Jennifer Perrault, left, a second grade teacher at St. Pius X School in South Yarmouth, has been named a recipient of the National University SystemSanford Teacher Award for Massachusetts on a surprise Zoom announcement.

During a year of unprecedented challenges for teachers nationwide, the Sanford Teacher Award honors the top teacher in each state and the District of Columbia with $10,000 for supporting student development and achievement in inspirational and harmonious ways. The award was established in the name of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who is committed to supporting inspiring teaching nationwide through PreK-12 programs focused on developing the social and emotional (SEL) skills of young people. Each teacher recipient is now eligible to be named the national winner of the Sanford Teacher Award, which comes with a total award of $50,000 and will be announced at a future date.

Perrault teaches her students to advocate for themselves through the use of kind words, empathy, and compassion. She helps students learn across all aspects of development–social and emotional, physical, and cognitive. She introduces multiple means for diverse learners to understand content through the diverse ways in which they learn, introducing kinesthetic movement, visuals, and hands-on learning tools.  Ms. Perrault believes in positive reinforcement and differentiates her curriculum based on the individual needs of the students, addressing whatever learning challenges children face.

Perrault and the other state awardees were selected before COVID-19 shut down schools, but have continued to use online settings to support the social and emotional wellbeing of their students during the current crisis.

The teachers were selected by a committee of educators and faculty based on an application process that included nominations and information provided by each teacher. Sanford Teacher Award winners were selected for demonstrating high levels of inspirational teaching practices by engaging students, building student confidence, motivating students to succeed, giving students a voice and creating an inclusive environment.

The qualities reflect the mission of education-focused programs based on the vision of Mr. Sanford that are being expanded nationally through the leadership of the private, nonprofit National University System. Its anchor institution, National University, is home to the Sanford College of Education, which is one of the nation’s Top Ten largest schools of education. The Sanford Programs include Sanford Harmony, a PreK-6 social emotional learning program that helps children develop communication and collaboration skills, and the PreK-12 Sanford Inspire program that offers teachers research-based resources and lessons to create inspiring classroom experiences.

“The National University System is so pleased to be honoring the vision of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford by recognizing inspiring teachers around the country through the Sanford Teacher Awards,” said Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, Chancellor of the San Diego-based National University System. “Teachers give so much of themselves to their students, schools and communities, and the Sanford Teacher Award is a way for us to celebrate the contributions of inspiring teachers who encourage children to reach their greatest potential.”

The Sanford Teacher Awards is part of the national expansion efforts of the National University System-based Sanford Programs, which in addition to Sanford Harmony and Sanford Inspire also includes a national network of fundraiser training programs anchored by the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at National University. All are based on the vision of Mr. Sanford, who has committed to giving away most of his wealth during his lifetime. Mr. Sanford has given to health care and education-related initiatives, including the Sanford Programs at the National University System.

“As a child, I was fortunate to have a few teachers who truly inspired me to learn and succeed. Educators have many similar opportunities to touch children’s lives and have had a profound influence on their lives and learning,” said Mr. Sanford. “As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, I can think of no better return on investment than inspiring students to embrace learning and their path in life.”

The 2020 awardees will join last year’s cohorts of awardees, continue to work with the Sanford Harmony and Inspire Programs and receive training in communications and advocacy for teaching that is inspirational and grounded in social and emotional development.

The National University System is a network of accredited nonprofit education institutions serving higher education and K-12 students that includes National University; John F. Kennedy University; City University of Seattle; and Northcentral University. NUS was established in 2001 to meet the emerging challenges and demands of education in the 21st century. The anchor institution, National University, was founded in 1971 and is among the largest private, nonprofit institutions of higher education in California with more than 175,000 alumni. National University’s Sanford College of Education is one of the Top Ten largest schools of education in the country.