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Idaho’s Teacher of the Year award goes to?

A kindergarten teacher in the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District was recognized by the state of Idaho as Teacher of the Year.

The Idaho Teacher of the Year is chosen from among district nominees by a selection committee representing the state education leaders and lawmakers. Each school district and charter school may nominate one teacher. School districts submitted their nominations to the State Department of Education before the end of the school year.

The Idaho Teacher of the Year Program, which began in 1959, is one of the most prestigious honors in the state for teachers. The program focuses the public’s attention on excellence in teaching.

This year’s award went to Claude A. Wilcox Elementary School teacher Mary Spiker, who said it was a honor to be recognized.

“It’s very humbling to me because there are incredible teachers in this state. And I’m just one of many, so to have been signaled out almost seems surreal,” Spiker said.

Spiker filled out a packet provided by the state and answered questions pertaining to teaching, and then submitted her responses. However, Spiker said she didn’t expect to win.”I submitted everything and I didn’t hear anything by the end of October, so I let it go and didn’t give it anymore thought until today, when I was surprised.”

Spiker said. “We take care of one another, and everything that we do in the classroom is driven from the fact that we are a family first.”

Idaho State Department of Education Superintendent Sherri Ybarra traveled from Boise to present Spiker with a $1,000 check. “Just to have someone of her caliber and leadership be here to recognize and honor me is an honor within itself,” Ybarra said.

“What I know about Mary is that she is a kindergarten teacher, she is loved by her community and very hardworking.”

Ybarra also said she believes in Spiker’s philosophy and method of teaching. “The one thing about Mary that stuck out to me was that she believes failure is actually about opening a door to success. There is no such thing in failure; this is a mistake making place, and we learn from that.”

Ybarra adds,”As a teacher, I think that’s fantastic. Kids feel comfortable with her, and I even asked if I can take her home with me? The kids said no.”

Ybarra was impressed with Spiker’s response when presenting her the award. “Mary was sure to give thanks to everyone and she knows it was a team effort,” Ybarra said.

Wilcox Principal Brenda Miner said this was a huge achievement for the school. “It’s very deserving and we are very proud.”

Miner recounts meeting and hiring Spiker four years ago. “I still remember her interview and the sparkle in her eyes. And every question that was answered had to do with the students. Everything that she does is centered around her classroom.”

She adds, “Mary gives the kids a sense of worth. They come to school every day and love learning.”

Spiker will also be a nominee for the National Teacher of the Year, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers that is sponsored by Scholastic Inc.

As Idaho’s Teacher of the Year, she will receive and do the following:

-Receive $1,000 from the State;
-Travel across Idaho talking with other teachers, legislators, and policymakers about education in our state;
-Travel to Washington, DC in the spring to meet Teachers of the Year from other states and the President of the United States; and,
-Serve as Idaho’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.

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