Rainier Elementary teacher in running for America’s Favorite Teacher competition

Kelsey Mahan recently made the top 10 in her group


When Rainier Elementary fifth grade teacher Kelsey Mahan first stumbled upon an advertisement for the America’s Favorite Teacher competition on Facebook, she thought it was a scam. Far too good to be true.

But with an opportunity to win a week-long trip to Hawaii, $25,000 in cash and a feature spread in Reader’s Digest, Mahan entered herself into the competition with low expectations, given that it was the first year of the contest, which is a fundraiser for Teachers Across America.

The competition began with 675 groups, with each group containing 100 teachers organized at random. Mahan qualified for the top 10 in her group and is now aiming to move into the top five by 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25. The top vote-getter of each group will advance to the quarterfinals, followed by semifinals and the final round, which takes place at the end of May.

“Over 67,000 teachers applied, and anyone could apply. The prize sounds pretty amazing. It’s through Reader’s Digest magazine, which is a reputable brand that’s been around forever,” she said. “They get to interview you and you fly out there, and I think that would be a really exciting opportunity.”

When Mahan posted about her candidacy in the competition on Facebook, she didn’t expect much of a response. Over the next couple of days, she received many comments from parents of former students at Southworth Elementary and Fort Stevens Elementary, as well as Rainier, about how she was one of their child’s favorite teachers and pledging their support for her. Mahan said she is often uncomfortable “parading around” and asking for people to vote for her, but she has enjoyed reconnecting with friends and families through the competition.

“It’s absolutely so heartwarming. I was just blown away by some of those comments. It’s really fun to reconnect with some of those families because a lot of them I had are now in high school or have now graduated,” Mahan said. “It’s really incredible to feel that support and that love from so many different people.”

Her students in her fifth grade class have even gotten involved in her campaign for America’s Favorite Teacher. While the youngsters are likely unable to cast a vote as verification through a credit card or Facebook profile is required, they ask Mahan for updates on her place and have convinced their family members to vote on their behalf.

“It’s fun because they’re cheering me on like, ‘What place are you in? I’m gonna get my aunt to vote for you,’ and it’s a fun thing to bring my class together with,” she said. “It’s been overwhelming in the best way possible. It’s so kind and generous of people.”

If she is cast as America’s Favorite Teacher, Mahan said she would use the $25,000 prize to pay off her student loans and take her two children on a family vacation to Disneyland. An additional prize would be the opportunity to highlight the Rainier community and her love for teaching, she added.

“Teaching is exactly where I’m meant to be. I just love it. I don’t ever feel like I go to work. I feel like I get to do something I love every day, [and] it’s hard to beat that,” she said. “It’s kind of magical to be a part of a small school. It’s really awesome to get to know each kid and you get to see their journey. I love it here.”

To vote for Mahan and to learn more about the America’s Favorite Teacher competition, visit https://tinyurl.com/3bj9euvx.