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Release: Immediate

UI President presents award to Sioux City kindergarten teacher March 5

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman will present

Donna Dee Dwyer, a kindergarten teacher at M.G. Clark Elementary School in Sioux City, with an Iowa Distinguished Teacher Award during a ceremony Thursday, March 5 at the school.

Dwyer, who has been teaching at Clark Elementary School since 1956, was cited for her extraordinary commitment to her students, their families and the profession.

One of four teachers selected for the 1997 Iowa Distinguished Teacher Awards, Dwyer will receive a $1,000 grant for equipment and teaching materials for the school during a student assembly at 10 a.m. March 5.

"As a graduate of Iowa public schools, and through my travels throughout the state, I know there are many, many examples of excellent teachers in Iowa classrooms," Coleman says. "And I know the difference that their commitment makes in the lives of young people."

"The Distinguished Teacher Awards are our way of recognizing some of the very deserving people who don't often hear the words, 'Thank you,'" she says.

Coleman redesigned the awards ceremony in 1996 so that she could personally visit the school of each recipient and present the awards. She also created the $1,000 grant as a way of letting each school share in the honor.

At the student assembly, Coleman will present the award to Dwyer. Also on hand will be

Jon Whitmore, UI provost; Michael R. Bartek, principal of Clark Elementary School; James Austin, superintendent of the Sioux City Community School District; Richard Bathurst, assistant superintendent; and Jerry Kjergaard, assistant superintendent.

Bartek said Dwyer has been a positive influence on her students, their families, the school and the community during her four decades of teaching.

"You'd have to see her to believe her," Bartek says. "I feel fortunate coming to school every day and seeing her enthusiasm for teaching and her genuine excitement to be working with students. She's a very highly respected teacher and member of the community."

Dwyer began teaching in Allen, Neb. in 1954 and moved to Sioux City in 1956 to teach kindergarten at Irving Elementary School. Since then she has taught kindergarten at Irving, Lincoln, Bryant, Bancroft and M.G. Clark elementary schools, often traveling between school buildings.

She has taught at M.G. Clark Elementary School since 1956, where she is known to several generations of Sioux City families.

A native of Wakonda, S.D., Dwyer earned her teaching certificate, bachelor's degree and master's degree from the University of South Dakota.

The UI has presented the Distinguished Teacher Awards since President James O. Freedman initiated the program in 1984.

Freedman established the awards to honor teachers who have profoundly influenced the lives of their students, particularly in the skills of critical reasoning and clarity of expression. The awards emphasize the UI's commitment to education and its recognition of the interdependence between

K-12, community college, and university education.

The Distinguished Teacher Awards are co-administered by the UI Office of the Provost and the UI College of Education. Each elementary, junior high school and high school in the state is invited to submit one nominee for the award each year.

Winners are chosen by a committee chaired by Steven R. Yussen, dean of the UI College of Education. Other members are UI faculty and licensed teachers and administrators.


EDITORS: As part of the selection process for the Distinguished Teacher Awards, recipients are nominated by supervisors, colleagues, parents and students. Here's a sample of what

Donna Dee Dwyer's nominators wrote about her.


Former supervisor: "[Donna Dee] Dwyer teaches with such excitement and enthusiasm that children 'love to learn' -- they can't wait to learn to read. She teaches with as much energy and enthusiasm now as she did when she started, always giving 110 percent."


Colleagues: "The staff receives the 'end product' of the kindergarten year. The qualities that the children have received in Ms. Dwyer's class are such that all children can blossom positively as they make their way through the remaining grades. She has initiated 'great starts' for so many students in her 43 years of teaching and working with society's greatest asset and hope for the future -- 'children'"


Former student: "As a volunteer in the same school where I attended kindergarten those many years ago, I see Miss Dywer interact with her students every day. 'They are just so smart! You just can't believe it,' she so often says with a sparkle, summoning us down the hall to watch her class beat a rhythm during rhythm band (a very noisy activity), or execute a perfect square dance. She encourages parents to visit often, so we can appreciate how clever the children are ... how talented, how wonderful! The welcome mat is always out the door of the kindergarten room."


Parent: "The one thing that strikes me as so outstanding is that she gives ALL the children a positive attitude toward school. This is especially apparent as they enter the first grade and have a great willingness to learn. This is a rare gift in a person and Donna Dwyer should be credited with the success of many students in their school experiences."