Iowa Teacher of the Year (TOY)
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The Iowa Teacher of the Year Award was established in 1958 and is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa legislature. The award provides an opportunity to recognize an Iowa teacher who motivates, challenges, and inspires excellence; who is respected by students and peers; who is a dedicated professional that helps nurture hidden talents and abilities; who is a creative, caring individual; who takes teaching beyond textbooks and blackboards; and who is an exceptional teacher helping to redefine American education.
The Iowa Teacher of the Year may serve as the Iowa Ambassador to Education, acting as an education liaison to primary and secondary schools in the state.
Anyone, including school administrators, colleagues, students, parents, college faculty, and associations may nominate teachers for the award. Winners are chosen by a committee that includes representatives of the Iowa Department of Education (DE), the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), the School Administrators of Iowa (SAI), the Parent Teachers Association (PTA), the past Iowa Teacher of the Year, and representatives from higher education institutions.
2016 Iowa TOY Scott Slechta
Scott Slechta, a 35-year veteran teacher who traces his passion for learning all the way back to the first grade, is the 2016 Iowa Teacher of the Year.
“Great teaching is the single most important influence on learning inside schools,” said Branstad. “Scott Slechta exemplifies the great teaching that is taking place in many Iowa classrooms. I am thrilled that he has taken on the role of a mentor specialist in Fairfield as part of Iowa’s new teacher leadership system, which is helping to strengthen instruction across the state.”
Slechta, 57, has taught English-language arts at Fairfield High School since 1984. He has served in many district and state leadership roles during that time.
Slechta is known for challenging his students to learn and to push their own boundaries. Perhaps even more important is that Slechta challenges himself – after every single lesson – to be a better teacher.
“Scott Slechta’s commitment to innovation and lifelong learning are an inspiration,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. “His tireless focus on how to be a more effective teacher has served his students extraordinarily well, and is a model for the new teacher leadership system rolling out across Iowa.”
“Great teachers have a monumental impact on their students and challenge their colleagues to keep learning and growing,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said. “The leadership of Scott Slechta and many other outstanding educators will help guide our state as we work to give all students an excellent education.”
Slechta grew up on an Iowa farm and can recall by name each teacher going back to first grade who inspired him to pursue teaching – and English-language arts.
In his Teacher of the Year application, Slechta credited other teachers for contributing to his understanding of teaching and learning, but said his students have been his main influence.
“I work hard on days when teaching isn’t easy. I try even harder on days that are really difficult,” Slechta wrote in his Teacher of the Year application. “All in all, I hope to teach students curriculum-based knowledge as well as the qualities of persistence and perseverance, dedication and determination, and initiative and wisdom in order to accomplish great things.”
Tracy Andermann, an Iowa State University freshman who wrote a letter of support for Slechta during her senior year at Fairfield High School, said Slechta exemplifies the teaching trifecta: challenging, creative and caring.
“I’ve heard my fellow classmates say that while they didn’t like English, they took Mr. Slechta’s classes because they heard how much he prepares them for the future,” Andermann wrote. “Also, since he is such a good teacher, my peers are rushing to squeeze in as many of his classes as possible into their schedules. They know what a huge opportunity his classes provide.”
Slechta 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.”
In addition to teaching and directing plays, Slechta is active in his community, and last year received Fairfield’s Citizen of the Year for his volunteer services. He enjoys swimming and participating in 5K runs, where his goal is “always to finish, but my second goal is to finish with a good time.”
He and his wife, Tricia, live in Fairfield and have four children: Margaret Way, Emily, Claire and Price.
2016 Iowa TOY Finalists
- Gail Heninger of Bettendorf, who teaches gifted-and-talented students at Davenport’s Central High School
- Benjamin Chadwick of Grimes, who teaches technology education at Dallas Center-Grimes High School
- Louise Fleming of Mount Auburn, an instructional coach at Vinton-Shellsburg High School
- Wade Petersen of Ankeny, who teaches language arts and French at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School in West Des Moines
Past TOY Recipients
**One of four contenders for National Teacher of the Year
*National Teacher of the Year
|Year||Name||Grade and/or Content Area||School||City|
|2016||Scott Slechta||English Language Arts||Fairfield High School||Fairfield|
|2015||Clemencia Spizzirri||Spanish||Merrill Middle School||Des Moines|
|2014||Jane Schmidt||8th Grade Literacy and Language Arts||Maquoketa Middle School||Maquoketa|
|2013||Tania Johnson||Kindergarten||Jackson Elementary School||Cedar Rapids|
|2012||Charity Campbell||Physical Education||Norwalk Middle School||Norwalk|
|2011||Molly Boyle||3rd Grade||Brookview Elementary School||West Des Moines (Waukee CSD)|
|*||2010||Sarah Brown Wessling||High School English||Johnston High School||Johnston|
|2009||Linda Heffner||4th Grade||Everette Elementary School||Sioux City|
|2008||Andy Mogle||Family and Consumer Science||Norwalk High School||Norwalk|
|2007||Jan Keese||3rd Grade||Crocker Elementary School||Ankeny|
|2006||Jacqueline Warnstadt||4th Grade||Leeds Elementary School||Sioux City|
|2005||Vicki Lynn Goldsmith||English, Women's Studies, Theories of Knowledge||Roosevelt High School||Des Moines|
|2004||Ernest Lee Schiller||Biology||Central Lee High School||Donnellson|
|2003||Diana Buter||Reading and Language Arts||Grinnell Middle School||Grinnell|
|2002||Jennifer L. Erbe||3rd Grade||Starry Elementary School||Marion|
|2001||Gail B. Wortmann||Anatomy and Physiology & Advanced Anatomy||Ottumwa High School||Ottumwa|
|2000||Thomas H. Paulsen||Agriculture Education||Carroll Community High School||Carroll|
|1999||Maureen Hoffmann||English||A-H-S-T Middle School||Shelby|
|**||1998||Ruth Ann Gaines||Drama||East High School||Des Moines|
|**||1997||Jan Mitchell||English||Marshalltown High School||Marshalltown|
|1996||Jill Olsen-Virlee||French||Marion High School||Marion|
|1995||Jerry Pierce||English||Roland-Story Middle School||Roland|
|1994||Keith Robinson||Social Studies||Maple Valley High School||Mapleton|
|1993||Joan McShane||Science||Jefferson Elementary School||Davenport|
|1992||Nancy Mounts||Family and Consumer Science||North High School||Sioux City|
|1991||David Arthur Hunt||Social Studies||Clarence-Lowden High School||Clarence|
|1990||Pamela Adams Johnson||6th Grade||Carpenter Elementary School||Monticello|
|1989||Anna Mary Mueller||English as a Second Language||West High School||Iowa City|
|1988||Pat Roush||7th - 8th Grade English and Speech||Neal McGowan Junior High School||Knoxville|
|1987||Richard E. Peters||High School Social Studies||Mount Vernon High School||Mount Vernon|
|1986||Linda Pershall Calvin||10th - 12th Grade Social Studies||Urbandale High School||Urbandale|
|1985||Margo J. Chesebro||11th - 12th Grade Language Arts||East High School||Sioux City|
|1984||Sharon June Lee||3rd Grade||Douglas Elementary School||Des Moines|
|**||1983||Gene Ulrich||Biology Teacher & Science Department Head||North High School||Sioux City|
|**||1982||Darlene Frazier||Art Teacher & Department Head||Boone Community Schools||Boone|
|1981||Dan Gogerty||Language Arts||South East Junior High School||Iowa City|
|1980||Howard L. Carter||Multi-occupations Program||Central Lee High School||Argyle|
|1979||Richard A. Wilson||Elementary Physical Education||Centerville Community Schools||Centerville|
|1978||Helen Finken||Social Studies||South East Junior High School||Iowa City|
|1977||Shirley Jean Fouts||Social Studies||South East Junior High School||Iowa City|
|1976||Betty Burres-Youngs||Remedial Reading||Washington Irving Junior High School||Des Moines|
|1975||Alice Elizabeth Piercy||Reading||Iowa City Community Schools||Iowa City|
|1974||Genevieve Treichler Wallace||Woodlawn Elementary School||Des Moines|
|1973||Goldie Michalek||Elementary||Mason City Community Schools||Mason City|
|1972||Jean Bogardus||Elementary||Clear Creek Community Schools||Tiffin|
|1971||John D. Beghtol||History||Centerville High School||Centerville|
|1970||Beulah Anderson||West Elementary School||Emmetsburg|
|1969||Jane Sharp||Kirkwood Elementary School||Des Moines|
|1968||James Lokett||Keokuk Community Schools||Keokuk|
|1965||Betty Jean Hyde||Callanan Junior High School||Des Moines|
|1964||William V. Houser||Science||Roosevelt High School||Des Moines|
|*||1958||Jean Listebarger Humphrey||Elementary||Ames Community Schools||Ames|