14 of the state’s top teachers were honored for their service during an annual luncheon on Tuesday, March 10 in Des Moines.

Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck, Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and other leaders honored 14 finalists and winners of the following teaching awards at the Outstanding Iowa Teachers Recognition Luncheon in Des Moines:

  • Iowa Teacher of the Year
  • Iowa Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
  • Gilder Lehrman Iowa History Teacher of the Year

“Great teachers lead, encourage, and inspire their students and fellow teachers,” Buck said. “And they never stop learning, growing and trying to get better.”

The luncheon was hosted by the Iowa Department of Education and sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the National Science Foundation, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Iowa Department of Education.

Iowa Teacher of the Year

  • Award-winner: Clemencia Spizzirri, a Spanish teacher at Merrill Middle School in Des Moines
  • Finalists:
    • Ryan Higgins, an engineering teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs
    • Renee McCombs, an eighth-grade special education teacher at Eastview 8-9 School in Norwalk
    • Dann Speichinger, an English as a second language teacher at the Educational Service Center in Sioux City
    • Tamara Tjeerdsma, a sixth-grade teacher at Crossroads Park Elementary School in West Des Moines
    • Stan Winquist, an industrial/agriculture education teacher at Glenwood Community High School in Glenwood

Gilder Lehrman Iowa History Teacher of the Year

  • Award-winner: James Hardy, who teaches grades 7-12 at East Union Community School in Afton

Iowa Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching*

  • Math Finalists:
    • Janna Bjork, a former third-grade math teacher who now teaches kindergarten English as a second language at Perry Elementary School in Perry
    • Ann Johnson, a second-grade teacher at Sageville Elementary School in Dubuque
    • Molly Sweeney, a multi-age teacher at the Downtown School in Des Moines
    • Tamara Bane, a former third-grade teacher who is now a high school instructional coach at Winterset Senior High School in Winterset
    • Tammie Cass, a math teacher at Nodaway Valley Middle School in Fontanelle
  • Science Finalists:
    • Joshua Steenhoek, a fifth-grade science teacher at Jefferson Intermediate School in Pella
    • Jessica Watson, a multi-age science teacher at the Downtown School in Des Moines

*State award-winners have not yet been announced by a national selection committee.

About the Awards

Iowa Teacher of the Year
The award, established in 1958, is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature. The award honors an Iowa teacher who motivates, challenges and inspires excellence; who is respected by students and peers; and who is an exceptional teacher helping to redefine American education. Honorees serve as ambassadors to education and act as liaisons to schools, higher education and organizations across the state.

Gilder Lehrman Iowa History Teacher of the Year
Since 2004, the award has recognized outstanding American history teachers who possess a strong commitment to teaching American history and exhibit creativity and imagination in the classroom.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
These awards represent the nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities and leaders in improving mathematics and science education.

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