VIDEO: Iowa Teacher of the Year calls pandemic toughest issue faced in classroom

By Dar Danielson, Radio Iowa
The Iowa Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year does her work in the classroom at Pleasant Valley High School in eastern Iowa.

Sarah Russell teaches social studies and in a video released by the Department of Educations, she says she will emphasize the need to prepare students for a global world.

“And I think sometimes it is easy to think, well we are in Iowa and what does that mean for us? But as our world has become more globalized — that includes all different areas of our state. That includes all different kinds of industry, obviously from farming even to manufacturing,” Russell says.

Russell says getting through the pandemic has been one of the toughest things she’s faced as a teacher. “This is my 20th year in education. Obviously, in my career I would say I’ve experienced a lot of different events that could affect what life is like for the average teacher,” Russell says. “The past year was like being a first-year teacher again. And I’m naturally a pretty positive and optimistic person, but we our days where last year I think brought a lot of teachers to our breaking point.”

Russell says she was able to make it through the past year with the help and support of her colleagues. She looks forward to hearing from other teachers in the next year. “I am extremely honored and humbled to be representing all teachers of Iowa during the next year when I am serving as Teacher of the Year,” Russell says. “Although I currently teach at Pleasant Valley High School, which is in eastern Iowa, I am proud to say I started my teaching career at Benton Community High School — which is a rural district compared to my now suburban district.”

Russell was announced as the Teacher of the Year Friday. “I can’t wait over the next year to be able to travel around the state to talk to teachers who are teaching in all kinds of schools and districts, and to be able to celebrate all the awesome things that Iowa teachers are doing,” she says.

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