Meridian Academy teacher wins top honor

Kim Zeydel and Tom Luna
Idaho Teacher of the Year Kim Zeydel and Superintendent Tom Luna

Just before Idaho’s 2014 Teacher of the Year was revealed, Meridian Academy students started whispering about what they suspected — it’s got to be Mrs. Zeydel.

During an assembly in front of the 150 students at the West Ada School District’s alternative school, State Superintendent Tom Luna made a surprise announcement that math teacher Kim Zeydel was selected the year’s best from among Idaho’s 15,000 teachers.

No one in the gym was surprised, especially the students.

“Kim fully commits herself to the success of her students and fellow teachers,” said Lisa Angelillo, a student at Meridian Academy. “Every math class I’ve ever been in has been mostly a struggle; but Kim knows how to communicate with each and every student, which has helped me through the years.”

Gov. Butch Otter with Tammy DeWeerd
Gov. Butch Otter and Meridian Mayor Tammy De Weerd attend an assembly for Idaho’s Teacher of the Year. De Weerd dressed as Mickey Mouse for Halloween.

Gov. Butch Otter, West Ada Superintendent Linda Clark, Meridian Mayor Tammy De Weerd and several lawmakers and trustees joined students and staff for the assembly.

Zeydel, a math teacher for 25 years, was given a plaque and a $1,000 check. She’ll represent Idaho in the national competition and travel to Washington, D.C., to meet the president. She’ll also travel the state to share her best practices and ideas.

“I’m honored to have Kim Zeydel represent Idaho as our 2015 Teacher of the Year,” said Luna. “Mrs. Zeydel has worked tirelessly in the classroom for more than two decades.”

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Zeydel credited her fellow teachers for her success, but first thanked her husband, Hjallmar Zeydel.

“If not for him, this would not have been possible,” she said.

The Zeydels live in McCall, where Hjallmar retired from a career as an electrical engineer. Kim’s background is in juvenile delinquency prevention and her passion is math. The best way to combine her two loves, she discovered, was to teach at an alternative school for at-risk kids. And the best place to do that is in Meridian. Because she works long days tutoring kids after school, Kim lives in Meridian and visits her husband on weekends.

They video chat on Skype during dinner.

“She spends so many hours teaching and working with kids that I wouldn’t see her much more anyway,” said Hjallmar, who took pictures during the assembly. “She feels these kids need her attention.”

Most of Kim’s students meet their growth goals after performing several years below grade level.

“Kim’s impact at Meridian Academy is immense but her impact on the lives of students, the careers of fellow educators and her influence on education as a whole is beyond measure,” said Meridian Academy Principal Dustin Barrett.

Kim also was named the 2014 Teacher of the Year at her school and her district, the largest in Idaho.

She won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2009 so this will be the second time she meets President Obama.

The highlights of Kim’s teaching philosophy are:

  1. Teachers must believe all their students can learn and succeed.
  2. It is the teacher’s responsibility to determine how to motive students.
  3. The goal of teaching is to develop the desire in students to become lifelong learners.
  4. If a student feels respected and valued, they will try to meet the teacher’s expectations.

“Since I work with at-risk students, math is usually their worst subject,” she said. “Thus, I have had to learn to be patient, understanding, demanding of high expectations, willing to help outside of contract hours, encouraging, supportive, willing to teach to all learning styles, willing to admit mistakes and willing to listen to my students and help them with both their academic and social problems.”

The Idaho Teacher of the Year program began in 1959 and has become one of the state’s most prestigious honors for teachers. Districts and charter schools can nominate one teacher. A selection committee includes teachers, education leaders, parents and legislators from across the state.

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