Local Science Teacher Wins PETA’s Teacher of the Year Contest

For Immediate Release:
May 10, 2023

Sara Groves 202-483-7382

Round Rock, Texas

Just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week (May 8–12), TeachKind—PETA’s humane education division—has crowned Meridian World School educator Jessica Hagerman its 2023 Teacher of the Year. It’s a big accomplishment for someone wrapping up her first year as a full-time educator, but in that time she has taught students to rethink classroom “pets” and animal dissection, consider the benefits of eating vegan, and much more.

As an International Baccalaureate (IB) science teacher, Hagerman knows that the “ethical components of science” part of the IB curriculum should extend to animals. That’s why she explains to students that millions of animals are killed every year for classroom dissection, which is both cruel and ineffective.

Having been vegan for six years, Hagerman is open with her students about the reasons she rejects breeding or exploiting animals for human gain. This includes lessons and class discourse about the meat industry’s genetic manipulation of cows and chickens to make them larger and discussions about breathing-impaired dog breeds, who are “aesthetically” bred to have faces so flat they struggle to breathe. When discussing “pets,” Hagerman is also quick to remind students that no animal wants to endure confinement in a classroom—which is why she has several class plants instead.

“The first year of teaching is typically the most challenging, and for Hagerman to inspire students to stand up for animal rights is impressive,” says PETA Senior Director of Youth Programs Marta Holmberg. “TeachKind’s Teacher of the Year deserves a round of applause for showing budding scientists how they can learn about the world without harming other species.”

In addition to a framed certificate, Hagerman will receive a set of SynFrogs—realistic, dissectible models that replace frog cadavers—for next year’s classes. Her prize package will also include a box of purrfectly delicious cat-shaped vegan chocolates, a sweatshirt from “PETA-Approved Vegan” company Wuxly, the MamaSezz x PETA Vegan Bonanza Bundle containing 21 delicious vegan meals, and more.

TeachKind—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit TeachKind.org or follow the group on Facebook, or Instagram.

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