Lest anyone lament “There ought to be a Hall of Fame for teachers,” lament no more. There is indeed a National Teachers Hall of Fame, and CTA member Bradley Upshaw, third-grade teacher at Vanalden Avenue Elementary School in Reseda, is one of five teachers nationwide who will be inducted into it come June. Upshaw received the news during a surprise assembly at his school, where students, educators, parents and former colleagues celebrated the 32-year veteran teacher.
“I didn’t know until I walked into the assembly,” Upshaw says gleefully. “I thought we were taking a photo for the website, but instead, it was all about me.” Principal Yoshim Yang had received notice of the honor two weeks before, but kept it secret to surprise him. Upshaw and the other inductees will be recognized by the Hall of Fame at its headquarters on the Emporia State University campus in Emporia, Kansas, on June 22. The five will also be honored by NEA during a meeting of the executive board in May.
Upshaw originally planned to become an actor, and manages to use his years of theater training in the classroom. In his nomination packet for the Hall of Fame, he wrote, “I used to think that I would be doing the same show for a different audience every night, but instead, I get to do a different show for the same audience every day.”
Upshaw has spent his career teaching third grade at Vanalden, a small neighborhood school where he has former students who are now sending their children to him.
“It’s really a family at this school. Most teachers who get into this school stay for their whole career. I started here as a rookie, but it’s a place where I now get to be a mentor teacher.”
Reflecting on the building blocks of UCLA Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, which the school adopted two years ago for its character education program, Upshaw attributes his own success to hard work and enthusiasm.
“When you do the hard work and have enthusiasm, you continue to improve.
I don’t think I am the best teacher, but there isn’t anyone who wants to be better than I do.”
Upshaw particularly enjoys teaching third grade.
“It’s a pivotal year. There is so much research about kids being successful by 9 years old. In my mind, that’s the front line. In elementary school, every grade has so much to do, but I like third grade. Boys and girls are still friends. They like gross jokes. They stop tattletaling. They are not as sassy. It’s an age I’m really drawn to.
“And a lot happens in the third-grade curriculum as well — cursive writing, history is expanding in their world, multiplication, science experiments, their art ability is maturing.”
Upshaw knows how hard it is for new teachers. For the first year, new teachers may feel like they are impostors, he says, and it may take until they’ve taught five years to feel like they are in the groove.
“It’s very stressful being in teaching and staying up with all the changes. The pendulum goes back and forth, but veteran teachers know what to do with it all. When you have confidence in delivering the curriculum, you can pick your best resources.”
A member of United Teachers Los Angeles, Upshaw is a National Board Certified Teacher, has been recognized with Video in the Classroom Awards by the Los Angeles PBS station, and is a Star Teacher with the Discovery Education Network.
The National Teachers Hall of Fame was established in 1989 and promotes exceptional pre-K–12 teachers through a museum, educational programming and a recognition program. To date, 130 teachers from 39 states and the District of Columbia have been inducted. Teachers selected must have a minimum of 20 years of full-time teaching.