By Tiana Putric
As school is resuming for teachers and students all across the country, let’s take a moment to celebrate education by shining a spotlight on some of America’s most inspiring and influential teachers – honorees of National Teacher of the Year, which was established in 1952. Their names make admirable hero baby names.
The lovely name Jahana has roots in the Persian language and means ‘woman of the world’. Jahana, reminiscent of the enduringly popular Johanna which has starred on the U.S. Top 1000 consecutively for 136 years, has many name variations: Jahanara, Jahanea, Jahania, Jahanna, and Jahanne. Jahana, a rarely heard hero baby name in America, suggests a few familiar short forms: the modern-day Hana, the classic Ana, and the internationally popular Jana.
Shanna, also spelled Channah, Shana and Shannah, means ‘wise one’ in Celtic and, via Shoshanna, ‘lily’ in Hebrew. Shanna, rare today, was quite popular in the late 20th century and is an attractive alternative to the more common Shannon. Shanna’s original Welsh spelling Sian, joins other Celtic girl names beginning with ‘S’: Saoirse, Sinead, and Siobhan.
The down-to-earth Jeffrey, an American version of the Anglo Saxon Geoffrey, has roots in the old-world Godfrey which means ‘peace of God’. Jeffrey is also related to the English surname Jefferson, which evokes Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s Founding Fathers. Jeffrey, which first appeared on the Top 1000 in 1934 and has endured there since then. The currently trending minimalist appellation Rey could replace the dated Jeff.
The traditional Anthony, from the Latin Antonius, has positioned itself on the U.S. Top 1000 every year from 1880 to 2015. Anthony is deeply rooted in history – the name was bestowed on many hallowed Saints – and has many world-wide variations: the French Antoine, the Russian Anton, the Italian and Spanish Antonio, the Polish Antoni, and the Dutch Ton. Originally spelled Antony, as in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, the Anthony means ‘priceless one’.
Related to the place name Kimberley in England, South Africa, and Australia, Kimberly is a onetime unisex, now female name was in the Top 5 throughout the sixties and seventies, but is now outside the Top 100. If you like the look and sound of the familiar Kimberly but want something less common you might consider the contemporary Kimber, or the rare Kimbra. Other names that share Kimberly’s sweet ‘erly’ ending include Everly, and Waverly.
The English appellation Chauncey has been featured on the Top 1000 on and off for decades – first in 1880, last in 1998. The name Chauncey means ‘Chancellor’ and has been linked to Charles Chauncey, second President of Harvard University. Chauncey may not be a commonly heard name today, but the contemporary Chance, currently trending with American boys, was born out of Chauncey. Caveat: It was a dog’s name on Mad Men.
Here are the names of a few other teachers who have been honored with the title National Teacher of the Year prior to the year 2000:
Elmon S. Ousley
Guy R. Doud
LeRoy E. Hay
Martha M. Stringfellow
Myrra L. Lee
Ruby S. Murchinson