Jesse Hagopian is a high school teacher in Seattle and has taught for over a decade at Garfield High School–the site of the historic boycott of the MAP test. Jesse is an editor for the social justice periodical Rethinking Schools, is the co-editor of the books, Black Lives Matter at School, Teaching for Black Lives, Teacher Unions and Social Justice, and is the editor of the book, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. Jesse serves as the Director of the Black Education Matters Student Activist Award, is an organizer with the Black Lives Matter at School movement, and is founding member of Social Equity Educators (SEE).
Jesse is the recipient of the 2019 “Racial Justice Teacher of the Year” from the NAACP Youth Coalition and the “Social Justice Teacher of the Year” award from Seattle Public School’s Department of Racial Equity. He received the 2012 Abe Keller Foundation award for “excellence and innovation in peace education,” and won the 2013 “Secondary School Teacher of the Year” award and the Special Achievement “Courageous Leadership” award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. In 2015, Jesse received the Seattle/King County NAACP Service Award, was named as an Education Fellow to The Progressive magazine, as well as a “Cultural Freedom Fellow” for the Lannan Foundation for his nationally recognized work in promoting critical thinking and opposing high-stakes testing.
Jesse is also an advocate for the power of sports in youth development and organizes to support athlete activism. Jesse partners with the Coaching Boys Into Men program and Team Up Washington, programs designed to engage high school student athletes in dialog about gender equity, healthy relationships, consent, and ending sexual assault. In addition, Jesse organizes with NFL pro bowler Michael Bennett and other professional athletes who protest injustice. Jesse joined the core organizing team of Athletes for Impact, the voice of athlete activism.
Jesse is an activist, public speaker, and a contributing author to 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History, Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation (Haymarket Books), and Why We Teach Now (Edited by Sonia Nieto, Teachers College Press). Jesse’s essay on the MAP test boycott and the ensuing national uprising against high-stakes testing was published in Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s 10th anniversary edition of Voices of a People’s History of the United States.
Jesse’s commentary has been featured on many local and national news programs including, HBO’s “Problem Areas” with Wyatt Cenac, NBC’s “Education Nation,” The PBS News Hour with Gwen Ifill, CNN, Keith Olberman’s Countdown, The Dan Rather Report, Democracy Now!, The Real News Network, Busted Pencils, The Laura Flanders Show, and C-Span’s “Book TV.” Jesse’s writings on education, the Black Lives Matter movement, Haiti, Palestine, and U.S. politics, have been published at Salon.com, Truth Out, Common Dreams, Black Agenda Report, The Progressive, Alternet, the Seattle Education website, and the National Education Association’s Education Votes blog. He has also been a frequent special guest contributor to the Seattle Times op-ed page.
Jesse has been active in the movement for Black lives. In January of 2015, Jesse Hagopian gave the final speech at Seattle’s Martin Luther King Day rally. Not long after, he was pepper-sprayed with out provocation by an officer of the Seattle Police Department. The incident was captured on video by an onlooker. Since then Jesse reached a settlement over the incident with the City of Seattle and used a portion of the proceeds to start the “Black Education Matters Student Activist Award.”
In January, 2013, Jesse helped organize the MAP test boycott that began at Garfield High School, quickly spread to several other Seattle Schools, and helped ignite a national movement against the abuses of standardized testing.
In 2012, Jesse attempted a citizen’s arrest of the Washington State Legislature when they announced cuts of some $2 billion from health and education, as the decision violated the State Constitution and subsequent law mandating a fully funded education system. When Jesse and members of the Social Equity Educators finished reading the charges to a stunned state legislature, Jesse produced a pair of plastic handcuffs and encouraged the legislators to turn themselves in. It was Jesse, however, who left in cuffs and spent the evening in jail. Upon hearing of his arrest, the students at Garfield staged a mass walkout against budget cuts to education that made national headlines.
In 2011, Jesse participated in the Interfaith Peace Builder’s historic first African Heritage delegation that brought 14 African Americans ages 28-70 years old to Israel and Palestine to meet with civil society organizations, human rights groups, and grassroots activists to better understand the conflict.
In 2010, Jesse and his family were in Haiti when the devastating earthquake hit and joined the relief effort in the aftermath. Upon his return home to Seattle, Jesse joined the board of directors of Maha-Lilo—“Many Hands, Light Load”—a Haiti solidarity organization.
In 2006, Jesse served as the campaign manager for Seattle Black Panther founding captain Aaron Dixon’s Green Party bid for U.S. senate with the message of, “Out of war…and into our communities!”
Jesse is a graduate of Seattle’s Garfield High School and Macalester College, and obtained his Master’s degree in teaching at the University of Washington. Jesse and his wife are the proud parents of two young boys.
You can connect with Jesse on Twitter.