Amongst the fanfare of the College Football Playoff National Championship, the College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation throws its own party centered around supporting teachers and education through its Extra Yard for Teachers platform.
Over the course of the weekend leading up to the national championship game, teachers found themselves invited to immerse in activities hosted by the CFP Foundation that ranged from a 5K run to an all-day “teachers only” lounge that allowed them to kick back, relax and learn some new skills.
Outside of celebrating the teaching profession through various events, the CFP Foundation also partners with the National Teacher of the Year Program, run by the Council of Chief School Officers, to host an elite group of teachers during championship weekend through the Teacher of the Year Championship Experience presented by Dr Pepper. This group is comprised of the State Teacher of the Year from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the territories.
“Recognizing teachers for their commitment to their students is something that needs to happen every day,” said CFP Foundation Executive Director Britton Banowsky. “We are honored to be able to recognize the very best in the profession on one of the biggest stages in sports. It sends a powerful message.”
“One of the lasting and most profound gifts of the Teacher of the Year Championship Experience is the opportunity to show students that teachers, the teaching profession, and life-long learning are worthy of the spotlight at our most celebrated national events,” said James Harris, the 2017 Alaska State Teacher of the Year. “By sharing this experience with me, my students have new reasons to view their teachers and their own learning journeys as heroic.”
At each CFP and CFP Foundation event throughout the weekend, moments were created to recognize the State Teachers of the Year and honor the teaching profession.
To bring the Extra Yard for Teachers (EYFT) mission to life, the CFP Foundation hosts the EYFT Lounge, EYFT Summit, Extra Yard 5K, Taste of the Championship and partners with ESPN on the EYFT Bus activation within CFP’s Playoff Fan Central.
Starting on Saturday, Jan. 6, the CFP Foundation hosted the teacher-centric EYFT Summit and EYFT Lounge at the Georgia World Congress Center. The EYFT Lounge drew in more than 1,500 visitors by offering over 50 activities for teachers and their families. These activities included lesson planning workshops, massages and giveaways courtesy of DonorsChoose.org and School Specialty. In the afternoon, the EYFT Summit was attended by more than 800 educators for a series of gripping, wide-ranging presentations and performances focused on the teaching profession.
On Sunday, Jan. 7, the CFP Foundation put on two public-facing events in order to continue to elevate the teaching profession to the hoards of college football fans that had invaded the city. Although the temperatures in Atlanta were in the teens Sunday morning, a record 1,565 participants walked and ran the Extra Yard 5K, and the overall male and female race winners each won two tickets to the national championship game. That evening, the Taste of the Championship brought over 25 chefs to the Georgia Aquarium for a night of sampling gourmet food and drink. Both events recognized the State Teachers of the Year in unique ways, and proceeds from the events benefit EYFT.
Fans were also able to get in on the action at the CFP Foundation and ESPN joint EYFT Bus activation inside Playoff Fan Central starting on Saturday, Jan. 6, and continuing until just hours before the national championship game on Monday, Jan. 8. An interactive carnival style game, the bus’s windows went up and down as fans attempted to throw footballs through the windows. Each football that was successfully thrown into the bus /equaled $1 towards Atlanta Public Schools (APS). In all, over $10,000 was raised for APS teachers and students.
“All of the CFP Foundation’s energy is focused on leveraging college football to benefit teachers,” said Banowsky. “During championship week, we have multiple events that not only compliment the game, but also are a big win for teachers.”
Game day, Monday, Jan. 8, was chalked full of great moments. Smithfield Foods Foundation donated $500,000 to the CFP Foundation as part of the Eckrich Million Dollar Challenge after ESPN analyst – and former college quarterback – Kirk Herbstreit, threw a football through the target 20 yards away on his third attempt. The culmination of championship weekend took place at the 2018 CFP National Championship in Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the State Teachers of the Year were honored on-field prior to kickoff in front of 77,430 attendees.
“It was incredible to be recognized in that way,” said Jennifer Wise of South Carolina. “The game was unbelievable and standing on the field for the national anthem is an experience I will forever cherish.”
The CFP Foundation was able to make a significant impact on teachers, students and schools in the Atlanta area, especially through the partnership with the Atlanta Football Host Committee who poured $1 million worth of resources into support education in the city through Extra Yard for Teachers.
While championship weekend encompasses many different events and activities, it all comes back to celebrating teachers and the work they have done. For Kate McCann, the 2017 Vermont State Teacher of the Year, the experience was like nothing else she has ever been a part of.
“In Vermont, there is a lot less fanfare around the naming of the Teacher of the Year. There are no invitations to serve on state committees, no big check, no car to drive, not many speaking engagements, no celebration or gala at the Governor’s Mansion, no TV interviews, and no throwing out the first pitch at a professional sports game. So for me, this felt like ’the moment‘, the point in time where the magnitude of our accomplishments was realized. All weekend it felt as though it was one big celebration in our honor. And when we walked out onto the field, even for the practice the day before, it felt just unbelievable. The focus was on us, for what we do for students, parents, and our community, and for what we do for our profession.”
When championship weekend was all said and done, the hours spent on every project and every last second change were worth every smile, thank you and moment the teachers got to experience as part of 2018 CFP National Championship Weekend.
“Our work expands every year,” said Banowsky. “In Atlanta, we had amazing support from so many partners, and our focus was transforming the system through early literacy. We expect to build on that success in the Bay Area where we will focus much of our work on helping teachers expand opportunities in science and math.”
The 2019 CFP National Championship will take place in Santa Clara, CA on Monday, January 7, 2019.
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