Honoring excellence: Idaho’s Teacher of the Year

I recently had the great honor of meeting with Mary Lynn Spiker who was selected to be the 2017 Idaho Teacher of the Year.  The role of teachers cannot be overvalued.  Robert Frost characterized teachers as “awakeners.”  They inspire and plant seeds of understanding that can lead to not only successful careers, but also successful lives.  I congratulate Mary Lynn Spiker on her selection for this honor and thank her and the many Idaho teachers she exemplifies for the work teachers do each day to ready Americans for the challenges ahead and awaken sparks of interest in each of us.

Mary Lynn Spiker with U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo

Mary is an outstanding example of the talented individuals who choose to teach and help further Idaho students along their career paths.  Mary is a kindergarten teacher in the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District #25 at Claude A. Wilcox Elementary.  She has dedicated 24 years to teaching.  Her biography, provided by the Idaho State Department of Education, notes her passion for teaching was sparked at the young age of 6 years old when she felt a sense of pride and accomplishment upon being asked to read in front of the class, and states that, “She teaches and models acceptance, kindness, respect, high expectations for all, and the value of truly celebrating one another.”

Mary Lynn Spiker was chosen for this honor among nominations sought from school districts and charter schools throughout the state.  The Idaho State Department of Education administers the Idaho Teacher of the Year Program, which began 58 years ago, to focus “public attention on excellence in teaching that has a real impact on the students in Idaho.”  According to the Idaho State Department of Education, recipients of the award have opportunities to travel across Idaho and discuss education with other teachers and policymakers; and travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with fellow Teachers of the Year from other states and the President of the United States.  They also serve as Idaho’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year and receive $1,000 from the state.

Because of the important work teachers do, National Teacher Appreciation Week is recognized in May to encourage students, parents, school administrators and public officials to participate in teacher appreciation events to help show teachers how valued they are in our communities.  I have supported the Senate’s unanimous passage of legislation recognizing this time to honor teachers and thanking teachers by honoring their roles and contributions in building and enhancing the civic, cultural and economic well-being of the U.S.  The Senate has recognized that “Education and knowledge form the foundation of the current and future strength of the United States.”

Teachers do so much more than impart educational lessons.  They identify and help develop individual strengths.  They comfort hurt feelings and keep our children safe.  They work with parents, tutor struggling students, coach sports teams and so much more.  Teachers inspire and awaken ideas that contribute to the strength of our community, state and nation.  Congratulations, Mary Lynn Spiker, on the recognition of your outstanding contributions, and thank you, to Idaho teachers who dedicate so much of themselves, their time and talents to encouraging and inspiring Idaho students.

Guest column written by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo.