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Release: May 12, 1999

Greene Elementary teacher Tracy named Iowa Distinguished Teacher

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Laura Ann Tracy, a kindergarten teacher at Greene Elementary School, has been selected by the University of Iowa for an Iowa Distinguished Teacher Award.

UI President Mary Sue Coleman will present the award to Tracy during a school assembly at 2:30 p.m. Monday, May 17 at Greene Elementary, 210 W. South St., Greene, Iowa.

Tracy, who has been teaching for 10 years, is the last recipient among four educators selected statewide for the 1998 awards. In addition to the award, she will receive a $1,000 grant from the UI for school equipment and teaching materials.

Coleman will be joined in the award presentation by Richard Shepardson, interim dean of the UI College of Education. Also on hand will be Greene Elementary Principal Jeff Peterson, who nominated Tracy.

In announcing the awards, Coleman said: "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. 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 added.

Tracy’s supervisors, colleagues and former students describe her as a "life-long learner" as well as a teacher, and as a person dedicated to her students and to making the classroom a vibrant learning environment.

"To put into perspective how strongly I believe in Mrs. Tracy, she is the first colleague I have nominated for such an award in my 13 years as an administrator," Peterson said. "Laura’s very deserving."

Tracy began her decade at Greene Elementary as a first grade teacher, from 1989 to 1992, and has been a kindergarten teacher since then.

She received her bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa in 1989, and her early childhood endorsement from Morningside College in Sioux City in 1997. She is currently working on her multi-categorical certification studies at Morningside.

Since 1997 Tracy has served as a facilitator for the Goals 2000 Literacy Improvement Grant Study Group of the Northern Trails Area Education Agency. The group consists of teachers from three school districts who are focusing on developmentally appropriate classroom practices.

In fall 1997 she was co-facilitator of a town meeting in Charles City, where she led group discussions on community betterment issues. And in fall 1998 she was a presenter at the "Soaring and Exploring" Area Educators Conference in Mason City, where her topic was "Enhancing Learning Through Outside Play."

Tracy has held several offices -- most recently president -- with the Iowa State Education Association/Greene Education Association and is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The University of Iowa 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 in some cases students. Here’s a sample of what Laura Tracy’s nominators wrote about her:

Supervisor: "Character traits I have personally observed and admire in Mrs. Tracy are honesty, empathy, patience, humility and perseverance. Her positive outlook and work ethic are unending. She is a role model for the children, as well as their parents and her colleagues."

Colleague: "She does so many wonderful things with her students that it is difficult to list them all. She tapes their many play productions and truly makes them feel like stars. She has initiated an outdoor play program in which the children have an opportunity to discover, explore and enjoy their recess time in a new and fascinating way. She takes every opportunity to bring music, cooking and dramatic play into her daily teaching."

Parent: "The first day my son went to kindergarten I had mixed feelings (like most mothers). When he came home that day the first thing he said to me was, ‘Mom, I just love my teacher!" That was the beginning of a great year for him academically, socially and in the areas of self growth and confidence."