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James “Jay” Marshall Rogers Jr. was the first Black teacher to win the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher Of The Year award back on this day in 1972. Rogers went on to have a stellar career as a college professor and faculty member at the prestigious Philips Academy. Rogers was born June 20, 1940, and grew up in Durham, N.C.

Rogers attended North Carolina Central University, graduating in 1962 with a degree in History.

After college, Rogers enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and became an officer. Working with the Neighborhood Youth Corps Community Action, Inc. as its Deputy Director, Rogers worked with high school dropouts to encourage them to continue their studies.

Rogers earned his MA degree from Appalachian State University in 1970, going on to teach at Durham High School. The school was integrating at the time, and tension between Black and white students was high. During a student assembly, Rogers boldly broached the issue of racism. Using racial epithets that the Black and White students called each other and saying that he hated them, he used a board to write, ‘I Like People’ to break the ice.

Rogers became a beloved fixture at the school, receiving the National Teacher Of The Year award in a ceremony at the White House. Rogers left Durham High in 1976 and taught History at Gaston College for nine years. Seekng new challenges as an educator, Rogers uprooted himself from the comforts of North Carolina and accepted a teaching position with Philips Academy in 1985.

Rogers admitted that the predominately White school in Andover, Mass. was an adjustment. Still, he wanted to implement African-American history as part of the Philips Academy curriculum. Because of his experiences with racism and poverty as a young man, Rogers worked to increase diversity and racial awareness at the school.

He remained as a consultant on diversity issues after his retirement in 2004, offering race relations workshops for new teachers. Rogers also served as a goodwill ambassador to the Middle East for the State Department and a guest of the Hanoi government via the American Friends Service Committee.

Rogers died at the age of 72 in January 2013.

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