One of the best parts of this job is meeting teachers, school administrators and education stakeholders—people who are passionate about the success of Iowa’s children and the future of our state. As I visit schools and see first-hand the dedication and innovation going on across Iowa, one thing is abundantly clear—Iowans value education and Iowa’s schools are a source of pride for communities across the state.

Paramount to the success of our schools are our teachers. They have helped generation after generation of students pursue their dreams and acquire the knowledge and skills they’ve needed for lifelong success. As one of those students–a proud graduate of Clinton High School—I know the difference that great teachers can make in a child’s life.

With Teacher Appreciation Week just around the corner, it is a great reminder to recognize and honor those teachers who made a difference in our lives and in the lives of our children. Without question, the success of our students and the future of Iowa are intertwined and it is our teachers who pave the way to that success.

Last month, I had the opportunity to celebrate the service of some of our amazing teachers during the Iowa Teacher of the Year Recognition Luncheon. The luncheon recognized finalists and winners of the Iowa Teacher of the Year award, the Iowa Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the State History Teacher of the Year award.

It was my pleasure to congratulate Sara Russell, Iowa’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, for her service as she completes her term, and to welcome our incoming 2023 Teacher of the Year, Krystal Colbert. I am looking forward to working with Krystal as she begins her year representing Iowa, sharing her knowledge and inspiring others to join the teaching profession.

We’ve all had teachers who made a difference in our lives. Teachers who nurtured our talents and skills, who sparked our curiosity and empowered us to grow and get better, who made us believe that we could do anything in life that we wanted. During Teacher Appreciation Week, we will be showcasing teachers across the state through headline stories on our website and in social media posts to highlight the work they do every day to ensure each child has the support and resources they need to succeed.

I’d like to recognize a transformational teacher in my own life—Mrs. Sherwood. She was my fourth grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Clinton, Iowa. She was tough, a demanding teacher, but she saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself. She believed in me and my potential and challenged me to be my best.

As a former student whose life was changed by an outstanding teacher, I want to thank every teacher for believing in their students’ potential, for challenging them, and for opening doors they didn’t even know existed.

There’s no doubt that teaching is one of the toughest professions, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Over the next few months as director, I look forward to visiting more schools and hearing directly from teachers about the joys and challenges they experience in the classroom. In those conversations, I’ll be especially interested in how the Department can be a helpful partner and resource in efforts to ensure that every Iowa student receives a great education.

As we continue our work to elevate the teaching profession in Iowa, it’s also important to celebrate it. While every week should be Teacher Appreciation Week, please join me during May 8-12 and take the time to #ThankaTeacher who has made a difference in your life.

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