CEDAR RAPIDS — For all of George Anderson’s 13-year teaching career, Anderson has taught social studies at Kennedy High School.
“Student-taught at this school, was hired at this school and will retire out of this school,” Anderson said. “I moved two blocks from this school so my kids would be through Kennedy and we’d be in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. I don’t want to be out there, I want to be in here.”
Officials noted that dedication in deciding to name Anderson Iowa Teacher of the Year. He was awarded the honor at the high school on Wednesday, making him the second Cedar Rapids teacher to receive the award since it was created in 1958.
Anderson, 43 and a veteran of the Marine Corps, also is an assistant football coach and serves on the school’s leadership team.
“I’m proud to represent the school and the district in this capacity,” Anderson said.
The Teacher of the Year award honors the state’s outstanding teachers who have made a significant impact in their classroom, Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said.
Each honoree selected serves as the Iowa Ambassador to Education, “acting as an education liaison to primary and secondary schools in the state,” according to the state education department, which sponsors the annual award.
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Anderson will take on that role for the 2020-21 school year, traveling to different school districts and teacher preparatory programs across the state. In this capacity, he will be “lifting up the entire profession,” Wise said.
“In addition to his strong focus on content and building relationships with students, (Anderson’s) experience is important in a number of ways,” Wise said. “He has had 13 years of experience in the classroom — plus an entire life before that in Marine Corps. That’s a unique background.”
Tania Johnson, a Jackson Elementary School kindergarten teacher, was the first Cedar Rapids instructor to be named Iowa Teacher of the Year in 2013.
Gov. Kim Reynolds made a surprise visit to announce the honor to students and staff during the high school’s prep rally. Students cheered loudly when the announcement came, throwing confetti and chanting Anderson’s name.
This honor is a big deal, Reynolds told the assembly, but added the attributes that matter most “can’t be measured by professional accolades.” She said Anderson considers his greatest achievements to be a phone call from a student he inspired to take up the profession or a Facebook message from a student sharing that “aha” moment.
“Outstanding educators like George Anderson help shape our state’s future,” Reynolds said in a statement.
Anderson said he considers the award as reflective of “the collective effort” teachers take on in his district.
“I work with teachers in other departments and we talk about the students we have in common all the time,” Anderson said. “When I was thinking about being the Teacher of the Year, I just realized I’m going to be the face to represent an outstanding building with a bunch of dedicated teachers and by proxy, the district.”
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Cedar Rapids Community School District Interim Superintendent Noreen Bush described Anderson as an individual who enjoys getting to know his students and commits himself to students both in his professional capacity and in his lifestyle.
“He loves his content, but not more than he loves his kids,” Bush said.
He’s also a teacher who is dedicated to the high school, officials said.
Anderson said he first discovered an interest in teacher during his time as a squad leader at the Marines. That interest was refined into a passion when he worked with high school students in Iowa City while attending the University of Iowa.
“I jumped in feet first,” he said.
As the state’s honoree, Anderson has been nominated for National Teacher of the Year, an initiative through the national not-for-profit profit Council of Chief State School Officers. Two of Iowa’s award recipients have gone on to be named National Teacher of the Year since 1958.
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