Nominations for Gold Star teacher open up

By: Billie Ann Albert

This year, KWWL and the R.J. McElroy Trust are celebrating the 27th award ceremony for the “Gold Star Award for Outstanding Teaching,” and they are looking for nominees. This award was Developed in 1989 by the R.J. McElroy Trust and KWWL TV. Each year, 10 nominees are selected and awarded, and more than 350 teachers have received an award over the years.

With the Gold Star Award, the McElroy Trust was looking to create a public recognition of special teachers.“Our goal is to affirm the importance of the teaching profession in our communities,” said Dr. Stacy Van Gorp, McElroy Trust Executive Director. “We achieve this by selecting and recognizing 10 outstanding teachers in Black Hawk County.”

However, like all contests, there are rules: nominees must be employed as non-administrative staff, hold a current teaching certificate and be teaching at a state certified pre-school or an elementary, intermediate school or secondary school that is approved by the Iowa Department of Education and located in Black Hawk County. Part-time teachers are also eligible.

Physics teacher Kenton Swartley was one of the CFHS staff who has won the award.

“I feel very honored that somebody would think highly of me for such an honor. A little humble because there are many great teachers in this school, so I feel a little special to be nominated,” Swartley said. “I must have done something unique to be recognized. I do try to use whatever innovative or creative ideas I can in the classroom. I like to try something new every year.”

Swartley said it is really amazing that the McElroy Trust put so much time and energy into providing this kind of recognition.

Journalism teacher Brian Winkel was also awarded a Gold Star teacher eight years ago. “It was really amazing to have a student validate the impact of what was going on in class,” Winkel said. “As a public employee, we don’t get special bonuses. We do it for the kids, and it makes you want to keep going, so that is the real perk.”

A lot like Swartley, Winkel also said that there are so many Gold Star-worthy  teachers on this staff that he would highly encourage students to nominate and make it official.

The ceremony was also very special to Winkel because he was able to see many former students that came back.

On the day she was notified of winning a Gold Star, English teacher Diane Flaherty was too busy trying to figure out what awful thing she had done for all of the administrators to be barging into her classroom that she did not notice the McElroy administrators and the Gold Star balloon. Flaherty was very surprised. She was not expecting to win, but it was a great thing. “It made me make sure I recognize other teachers and fill out an application for them because it makes you feel good.”

She encourages students and faculty to vote more because it means a lot, and even if nominated teachers don’t win, they still get the letters, and that’s as good of a prize as actually winning.

“I didn’t even think about the money,” Flaherty said. She was going to buy a few fiction and nonfiction books for her comp and rhet class, but the $1,000 reward helped her to buy those, plus more.

Band teacher Gerald Ramsey is also a past Gold Star teacher from the high school.

Deadline for this year’s nominations is March 1. Forms are available in the office, but nominations can be made online too at

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