The Iowa Teacher of the Year (TOY) 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 TOY may serve as the Iowa Ambassador to Education, acting as an education liaison to primary and secondary schools in the state.

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Nomination Information

Anyone, including school administrators, colleagues, students, parents, college faculty, and associations, may nominate teachers for the award. Self-nominations and nominations by family members are not accepted. Winners are chosen by a committee that includes representatives of the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa State Education Association, the School Administrators of Iowa, the Parent Teachers Association, the past Iowa TOY, and representatives from higher education institutions.


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2023 Iowa TOY Krystal Colbert

Krystal Colbert, a 16-year veteran teacher, as the Iowa Department of Education’s 2023 Teacher of the Year, during an assembly at Mitchellville Elementary School in central Iowa.

Watch an interview with 2023 Iowa Teacher of the Year Krystal Colbert.

See photos and watch the announcement video from the event.

“I am proud of the amazing work Krystal Colbert is doing to make a difference in the lives of her students and the impact she is having on the education system in our state,” said Governor Reynolds. “Outstanding educators like Krystal see that possibilities for growth are endless when you connect students and what they are learning with their community. Every day, she leads by example, focusing on how to make education better so all students can and do perform at the highest levels.”

“The Teacher of the Year award honors outstanding teachers who have made an impact on their students and colleagues,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said. “Krystal is a life-long learner, teacher leader and a Lighthouse team member working to build leadership and life skills in students. Her focus on supporting each student’s learning style and her ability to see challenges as opportunities for growth will help advance our education system as we move forward.”

Colbert, who is a second grade teacher in the Southeast Polk Community School District, says students who believe in themselves will be successful in school.

“Here at Mitchellville, we are teaching our students that positive self-affirmations, healthy habits, and having a growth mindset are essential in reaching their highest potential,” she said. “We are affirming to our students every day that they are loved and valued and that we care about their success.”

Colbert, along with her husband Jason and children Jamison and Emersynn, lives in Altoona. 

If Krystal could support your efforts in teaching and learning or recruitment and retention in some way, contact her at

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2023 Iowa TOY Finalists

  • Lori Brandt, a special education teacher in the Sioux Center Community School District.
  • Levi Letsche, a high school mathematics teacher from the Sheldon Community School District.
  • Amy Phillips, an elementary teacher in the Marshalltown Community School District.
  • Corrine Schalk, an elementary teacher in the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
  • Katie Weldon, a middle school mathematics teacher in the Norwalk Community School District.
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Past TOY Recipients

**One of four contenders for National Teacher of the Year
*National Teacher of the Year

YearNameGrade and/or Content AreaSchoolCity
2023Krystal Colbert2nd GradeMitchellville Elementary SchoolMitchellville (Southeast Polk CSD)
2022Sara RussellSocial StudiesPleasant Valley High SchoolBettendorf
2021No winner chosen   
2020George AndersonSocial StudiesKennedy High SchoolCedar Rapids
2019Christopher BurkeMathematicsEleanor Roosevelt Middle SchoolDubuque
2018Aileen SullivanChemistryAmes High SchoolAmes
2017Shelly VroeghInstructional Coach and 5th GradeLakewood Elementary SchoolNorwalk
2016Scott SlechtaEnglish Language ArtsFairfield High SchoolFairfield
2015Elizabeth Clemencia BulthuisSpanishMerrill Middle SchoolDes Moines
2014Jane Schmidt8th Grade Literacy and Language ArtsMaquoketa Middle SchoolMaquoketa
2013Tania JohnsonKindergartenJackson Elementary SchoolCedar Rapids
2012Charity CampbellPhysical EducationNorwalk Middle SchoolNorwalk
2011Molly Boyle3rd GradeBrookview Elementary SchoolWest Des Moines (Waukee CSD)
2010Sarah Brown Wessling*High School EnglishJohnston High SchoolJohnston
2009Linda Heffner4th GradeEverette Elementary SchoolSioux City
2008Andy MogleFamily and Consumer ScienceNorwalk High SchoolNorwalk
2007Jan Keese3rd GradeCrocker Elementary SchoolAnkeny
2006Jacqueline Warnstadt4th GradeLeeds Elementary SchoolSioux City
2005Vicki Lynn GoldsmithEnglish, Women's Studies, Theories of KnowledgeRoosevelt High SchoolDes Moines
2004Ernest Lee SchillerBiologyCentral Lee High SchoolDonnellson
2003Diana ButerReading and Language ArtsGrinnell Middle SchoolGrinnell
2002Jennifer L. Erbe3rd GradeStarry Elementary SchoolMarion
2001Gail B. WortmannAnatomy and Physiology & Advanced AnatomyOttumwa High SchoolOttumwa
2000Thomas H. PaulsenAgriculture EducationCarroll Community High SchoolCarroll
1999Maureen HoffmannEnglishA-H-S-T Middle SchoolShelby
1998Ruth Ann Gaines**DramaEast High SchoolDes Moines
1997Jan Mitchell**EnglishMarshalltown High SchoolMarshalltown
1996Jill Olsen-VirleeFrenchMarion High SchoolMarion
1995Jerry PierceEnglishRoland-Story Middle SchoolRoland
1994Keith RobinsonSocial StudiesMaple Valley High SchoolMapleton
1993Joan McShaneScienceJefferson Elementary SchoolDavenport
1992Nancy MountsFamily and Consumer ScienceNorth High SchoolSioux City
1991David Arthur HuntSocial StudiesClarence-Lowden High SchoolClarence
1990Pamela Adams Johnson6th GradeCarpenter Elementary SchoolMonticello
1989Anna Mary MuellerEnglish as a Second LanguageWest High SchoolIowa City
1988Pat Roush7th - 8th Grade English and SpeechNeal McGowan Junior High SchoolKnoxville
1987Richard E. PetersHigh School Social StudiesMount Vernon High SchoolMount Vernon
1986Linda Pershall Calvin10th - 12th Grade Social StudiesUrbandale High SchoolUrbandale
1985Margo J. Chesebro11th - 12th Grade Language ArtsEast High SchoolSioux City
1984Sharon June Lee3rd GradeDouglas Elementary SchoolDes Moines
1983Gene Ulrich**Biology Teacher and Science Department HeadNorth High SchoolSioux City
1982Darlene Frazier**Art Teacher & Department HeadBoone Community SchoolsBoone
1981Dan GogertyLanguage ArtsSouth East Junior High SchoolIowa City
1980Howard L. CarterMulti-occupations ProgramCentral Lee High SchoolArgyle
1979Richard A. WilsonElementary Physical EducationCenterville Community SchoolsCenterville
1978Helen FinkenSocial StudiesSouth East Junior High SchoolIowa City
1977Shirley Jean FoutsSocial StudiesSouth East Junior High SchoolIowa City
1976Betty Burres-YoungsRemedial ReadingWashington Irving Junior High SchoolDes Moines
1975Alice Elizabeth PiercyReadingIowa City Community SchoolsIowa City
1974Genevieve Treichler Wallace Woodlawn Elementary SchoolDes Moines
1973Goldie MichalekElementaryMason City Community SchoolsMason City
1972Jean BogardusElementaryClear Creek Community SchoolsTiffin
1971John D. BeghtolHistoryCenterville High SchoolCenterville
1970Beulah Anderson West Elementary SchoolEmmetsburg
1969Jane Sharp Kirkwood Elementary SchoolDes Moines
1968James Lokett Keokuk Community SchoolsKeokuk
1965Betty Jean Hyde Callanan Junior High SchoolDes Moines
1964William V. HouserScienceRoosevelt High SchoolDes Moines
1958Jean Listebarger Humphrey*ElementaryAmes Community SchoolsAmes
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