Krystal Colbert
Krystal Colbert

Krystal Colbert is going to bring grace into her role as 2023 Iowa Teacher of the Year. Well, it’s actually GRACE, an acronym that describes in detail her platform she will be using during her tenure, which started July 1.

“My main goal for the next year is to encourage and uplift this noble profession,” said the second grade teacher from Mitchellville Elementary in the Southeast Polk Community School District. “I want to spend a lot of time and energy working with teacher preparation classes and help the future teachers become motivated to enter the classroom.”

Hence, she chooses GRACE.

“The ‘G’ stands for a growth mindset with the concept of knowing that our talents and skills can be improved over time,” she said. “It’s OK to take risks, it’s OK to ask for help. I also think it’s important that our students have a growth mindset so that when they are struggling, they understand that most of their growth comes from being outside of their comfort zone.”

The “R,” Colbert said, stands for relationships.

“I truly believe that human connection and interaction is at the heart of what teachers do every day – relationships with our students and our colleagues, as well as policymakers and families.”

The “A,” she Colbert said, stands for “all means all. By that I mean all teachers, all in, for kids, all of the time.

“This requires collaboration. This job is too hard to do alone. So collaboration will help meet the needs of our kids. To go along with that, I find it comforting to know that I don’t have to do this job alone.”

The “C” stands for celebrate.

“I think we need to be intentional that we celebrate the hard work that the teachers do every day,” Colbert said. “We also have to celebrate the learning path our students are on every day. Celebrating also is great because it allows time for reflection, which provides opportunities for continued growth.”

And, finally, “E” is for elevate.

“To me, elevating teachers means we are giving teachers a voice in our schools,” she said. “That provides for opportunities for leadership within our schools. It includes giving teachers a place at the table.”

Despite just assuming her role as Teacher of the Year, Colbert has already given her GRACE message to several groups.

“The message is resonating,” Colbert said. “I have people coming up to me all the time thanking me for this – we need more grace. When people think of grace they see the best in themselves and in others.”

Colbert has already gone on two trips with other Teachers of the Year around the country – one to the Google campus in California to learn how to bring technology into the classroom, and the Rose Garden ceremony at the White House with the president.

“These have been life-changing experiences,” she said. “Many times I just have to pause and reflect when I am on these trips and think, ‘is this real life?’ I am forever thankful for the opportunity.”

Later this month, Colbert’s headed to Huntsville, Ala., for a space camp.

“I’m incredibly excited about it,” she said. “I absolutely love thinking about space. It is such a foreign concept to me. I am excited to meet up with my cohorts again. I know that it will be a really fun time.”

Being on the road so much requires juggling schedules at home with her husband Jason, and their two children Jamison and Emersynn. Colbert said they are taking the adjustment well. In fact, 9-year-old Emersynn has embraced it.

“My daughter, every chance she gets, tells people ‘my mom is the 2023 Teacher of the Year,’” Colbert said, laughing. “She wants to be a teacher someday. She told me, ‘Mom, I am a mini-TOY in training!’”

Colbert is geared up for the upcoming year.

“I already have a lot of colleges and universities reaching out to me,” she said. “They heard about me choosing grace. I will be a keynote at many of these colleges. I am also really excited that I will be the keynote at Mitchellville’s back-to-school event. For the last 16 years, I have been in the audience. It’s pretty magical getting everyone excited for the upcoming school year.”

But Colbert is keeping grounded.

“I am just so incredibly humbled and proud I am able to represent the teachers of Iowa,” she said.