A language arts teacher in a Des Moines suburb has been selected as the 2010 Iowa Teacher of the Year. Sarah Brown Wessling has taught at Johnston High School for 10 years and is chair of the school’s English department. Johnston School Board member Tyler Buller nominated Wessling for the award. Buller, a 2006 Johnston graduate, says he came up with the idea after talking with friends about things they remember from high school.
"We all remembered a couple of the projects that we did for her class, including a couple that I think really prepared us for stuff that we’re doing here in the quote ‘real world,’ whereas a lot of other things in high school you forget about," Buller said. Wessling’s tenure as Iowa Teacher of the Year will begin in January. Buller says Wessling is successful because she asks her students to focus on the meaning of their assignments.
"One the biggest things Sarah does that makes a huge difference is she gets students to ask questions not only about what they’re reading, but also about the world around them," Buller said. "She gets students to think about how something that might seem obscure or arcane, like symbolism in Frankenstein, and how that actually applies to the real world, how we think about everything around us and how we interact as people."
Buller graduated from Drake University last spring and is in his first term as a school board member. He believes Wessling’s teachings continue to improve his writing skills. "I can work on a policy for the school board that carries the force of law within a school and the tighter my writing is and the better my writing is – the better I can do my job," Buller said.
"I think she was a huge part of that." Wessling will be recognized at a luncheon, along with the other finalists for the award, on October 9th at the University of Northern Iowa. The other finalists for the award were Janet Coon from Sioux City, Steven Locke from Bellevue, Randolph Lyon from Dubuque and Andrea Stewart from Muscatine. The Iowa Teacher of the Year award is presented by the Iowa Department of Education.