Skip to Content

Iowa Teacher of the Year (TOY)

Contact(s)

On this page...

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.

2023 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.

2023 Iowa TOY Nomination Form - Accepting nominations through March 1, 2022.

2020 (and 2021) Iowa TOY George Anderson

George Anderson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy teacher and coach, was selected as the 2020 Iowa Teacher of the Year and, because of the pandemic, agreed to represent Iowa as the 2021 Teacher of the Year. He has traveled Iowa and the country serving as a representative for Iowa’s educators and Iowa education. George will continue in that role through the 2021-22 school year.

George has a passion for equitable and engaging teaching practices and uses that approach with students in his classes. He takes every opportunity to create an intellectually rigorous learning environment. He serves as a department chair and teacher leader in his building. George served on the state task force for teacher recruitment efforts, has made numerous presentations to educator preparation programs, and chaired the 7th Annual Emerging Educator’s Academy.

See photos from the 2020 Iowa Teacher of the Year announcement ceremony.

View a video of George to get to know him better.

“I hope to work on teacher recruitment and retention,” George said. “I want to work on meaningful policy and plans to entice young, passionate and talented people to this amazing job. I hope to be a resource for college students in Iowa that are considering education and to be able to expand upon how vital this role is to all social institutions. As the Iowa Teacher of the Year, it is my sincere hope that I am able to, in some way, impact recruitment of teachers and how we retain a workforce of dedicated professionals.”

If George could support your efforts in teaching and learning or recruitment and retention in some way, contact him at george.anderson@iowa.gov.

2022 Iowa TOY Sara Russell

Sara Russell, a 19-year veteran teacher, is the Iowa Department of Education’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, Gov. Reynolds announced Oct. 15, 2021 at Pleasant Valley High School in eastern Iowa.

“I am proud of the amazing work Sara Russell 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 Sara ensure our students are well prepared for careers and education beyond high school. Every day, she brings a positive and engaging approach to her students while helping them develop critical-thinking and team-building skills, which they'll take with them far beyond the classroom throughout their lives.”

“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. “Sara is a teacher leader, mentor to first-year teachers and an advocate of collaborative learning environments. Her leadership and passion will help Iowa’s education system grow and expand opportunities for students.”

See photos of Sara in the classroom and from the 2022 Iowa Teacher of the Year announcement ceremony.

View a video of Sara to get to know her better.

Russell, 43, is a social studies teacher who leads student-centered, hands-on learning.

“I believe in the idea that you will never truly understand a concept or idea until you can apply it to your own life or the world around you,” she said. “While direct instruction is a necessary component of learning, I structure as much of my class time as possible around student activities that demand students to make their own meaning of concepts or ideas, usually in a cooperative environment. With all of the activities, I strive to have students discuss, defend, explain and apply their learning.”

Russell, her husband Ian, and their 13-year-old twin sons, Gavin and Aiden, live in Bettendorf.

2022 Iowa TOY Finalists

  • Dawn Arnold, a mathematics teacher from Benton Community High School, Van Horne.
  • Kelli Kovarik, language arts teacher at North Fayette Valley High School, West Union.
  • Elaine Menke, an instrumental music teacher at Lakewood Elementary, Norwalk.
  • Staci Mercado, an English teacher at Central DeWitt High School, DeWitt.

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
  2022 Sara Russell Social Studies Pleasant Valley High School Bettendorf
  2021 No winner chosen      
  2020 George Anderson Social Studies Kennedy High School Cedar Rapids
  2019 Christopher Burke Mathematics Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School Dubuque
  2018 Aileen Sullivan Chemistry Ames High School Ames
  2017 Shelly Vroegh Instructional Coach and 5th Grade Lakewood Elementary School Norwalk
  2016 Scott Slechta English Language Arts Fairfield High School Fairfield
  2015 Elizabeth Clemencia Bulthuis 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

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on June 28, 2022 at 1:08pm.