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Release: April 27, 1999

Bettendorf school teacher to receive UI Distinguished Teacher Award

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman will present Shelley Ann Klaas, a counselor and teacher at Neil Armstrong Elementary School in Bettendorf, with an Iowa Distinguished Teacher Award during a ceremony Tuesday, May 4.

Coleman will present the award to Klaas at 9 a.m. at the school. Also on hand will be UI College of Education Interim Dean Richard Shepardson. Representing the school will be Neil Armstrong Principal Dave Lewis, who nominated Klaas, as well as the entire school population.

As one of four teachers selected for the 1998 Iowa Distinguished Teacher Awards, Klaas will receive a $1,000 UI grant for equipment and teaching materials for the school.

Klaas, who has been in the field 17 years, has been described by colleagues as professional, competent and creative in her efforts to show students how to get along with and appreciate differences among people, as well as conveying other important life lessons.

Lewis describes Klaas as someone with compassion and a desire to help others.

"She always goes above and beyond in helping us implement different ideas that will help students," Lewis said.

In addition to her work as a counselor, Lewis said Klaas has been instrumental in launching a number of special programs, including the Young Peacemakers Club, an after-school program in which adults teach children social skills, such as how to get along with others and how to resolve conflicts. She also helped secure funding for a Family Resource Center, a room in the school where parents can relax, watch parenting videos or leaf through an assortment of books and pamphlets on parenting and families.

A resident of Davenport, Klaas has worked in the Bettendorf Community School District for 14 years, 10 of them at Neil Armstrong Elementary. In addition to providing counseling services to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, Klaas teaches classroom guidance lessons, teaches and organizes parent education workshops and serves as district liaison on a variety of community committees.

She received a bachelor’s degree in 1978 from Mundelein College in Chicago with a major in French and minors in secondary and physical education. She received a master’s degree in counseling and human development from the University of Iowa in 1984. And she has taken post-master’s courses through the UI, Western Illinois University, Marycrest College and the Johnson Institute.

Along the way, Klaas has also been a foster parent, a volleyball and swimming coach and a business manager of a summer camp.

The UI has presented the Distinguished Teacher Awards since former 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 of K-12, community college and university education.

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.

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 Shepardson. 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 Shelley Ann Klaas’s nominators wrote about her:

Supervisor: "Shelley’s professionalism is outstanding. Interpersonal relationships are very positive with parents, staff and students. She has high credibility with the staff and gets things done."

Colleague: "There is not room on one single page to share with you the impact that Shelley Klaas has had on the Armstrong Elementary School Community. Shelley is a dedicated, compassionate and creative teacher who gives 200 percent to each and every person with whom she comes in contact."

Former student: "Shelley started something a while back by going into the classrooms and teaching children life lessons. How to respect yourself and others. How to deal with your emotions like anger and what to do with it. How to deal with bullies. What she is doing is teaching these children at an early age, and maybe things will be better for them as they are growing up."

Parent: "Ms. Klaas spent time in the classroom with my children teaching them many of life’s lessons, which I feel are of great importance in today’s ever-changing and challenging world. She presented them with challenging topics that required them to think for themselves and helped them identify and develop their own feelings about many difficult life issues."