Skip to Content

Iowa’s top teachers honored

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Front Row: Wade Petersen, Louise Fleming, Scott Slechta, Gail Heninger, Benjamin Chadwick Back Row: Curtis Martinek, Ricky Brooks, Education Director Ryan Wise, Gov. Terry Branstad, Alicia Schiller, Lynne Bleeker, Shannon Harrison McLaughlin

Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise, Gov. Terry Branstad and other leaders honored 10 finalists and winners of the following teaching awards at the Outstanding Iowa Teachers Recognition Luncheon in Des Moines:

  • Iowa Teacher of the Year
  • Iowa Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

"We all have had teachers who have made a difference in our lives -- teachers who challenged us to keep growing and getting better. Teachers who inspired us to innovate and think outside the box. Teachers who gave us the focus and foundation for a successful future," Wise said. "In Iowa, this magic occurs in thousands of classrooms every day."

The luncheon was hosted by the Iowa Department of Education and sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Iowa Department of Education.

See photos from the 2016 Outstanding Iowa Teachers Recognition Luncheon.

The Honorees

Iowa Teacher of the Year

Scott Slechta, an English-language arts at Fairfield High School in the Fairfield Community School District: Slechta, himself a mentor teacher, likens teaching to everything else that evolves. For instance, Fairfield High School’s aging art-deco structure recently went through a renovation. Effective teaching requires the same regular updates.

“As a teacher, I undergo deconstruction and rebuilding in what I do and how I do it,” he said. “I create my own blueprint for ‘remodeling and renovation’ that will make me be a better teacher.”

All teachers need to be reflective of their practices and to be willing to “remodel and renovate,” he said. “You need to look at your past to know where you are and where you want to go.”


  • Gail Heninger of Bettendorf, who teaches gifted-and-talented students at Davenport Central High School in the Davenport Community School District: “My goal as a teacher is to help students realize the importance in taking an active role in their learning and in building their own future.” 
  • Benjamin Chadwick of Grimes, who teaches computer science and engineering at Dallas Center-Grimes Meadows 8-9 School in the Dallas Center-Grimes Community School District: “What I find most rewarding about being a teacher is witnessing my students fearlessly take on the new programs I implement into our district. Both my students and I have to risk innovation and be willing to fail rather than stay in the safety net of our current program.”
  • Louise Fleming of Mount Auburn, an instructional coach at Vinton-Shellsburg High School in the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District: “Watching these students succeed and lead successful lives, especially when told they wouldn't be able to, is truly inspiring. I have students who have inspired me more than I ever could have them.”
  • Wade Petersen of Ankeny, who teaches language arts and French at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School in the West Des Moines Community School District: “I love walking into my classroom every day; I know that there are ways that I will grow, and ways in which I can help my students to grow.”

Iowa Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching*

Math finalists:

  • Ricky Brooks, a math teacher at Johnston High School in the Johnston Community School District: “The higher demand in understanding technology and the ability to analyze data in almost every career highlight the importance for the study of math and science at all levels of education.”
  • Curtis Martinek, a math teacher at Gilbert High School in the Gilbert Community School District: “As technology continues to evolve and improve, people’s ability to develop new technologies and their uses will be key to the economy of the future.”

Science finalists:

  • Lynne Bleeker, a seventh-grade science teacher at Parkview Middle School in the Ankeny Community School District: “In order for our nation to stay globally competitive and for students to have the best opportunities for interesting and rewarding careers, students need a high-quality science and math education.”
  • Shannon Harrison McLaughlin, a science teacher at Norwalk High School in the Norwalk Community School District: “We need an informed citizenry to make personal and social decisions that thoughtfully consider the general principles, assumptions, and limitations of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines in relation to complex and dynamic problems.”
  • Alicia Schiller, a science teacher at Central Lee High School in the Central Lee Community School District (Donnellson): “Giving students the opportunity to experience science first-hand and witness its impact and connection to their lives is the best way to raise their interest.”

*State award-winners have not yet been announced by a national selection committee.

About the Awards

Iowa Teacher of the Year
The award, established in 1958, is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature. The award honors an Iowa teacher who motivates, challenges and inspires excellence; who is respected by students and peers; and who is an exceptional teacher helping to redefine American education. Honorees serve as ambassadors to education and act as liaisons to schools, higher education and organizations across the state.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
These awards represent the nation's highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities and leaders in improving mathematics and science education.

Article Type: 

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on May 22, 2018 at 6:34am.