Gold Star Award open for nominations

Every year, a teacher in the Cedar Valley has a chance at being nominated by a student for the Gold Star Award, an honor that grants 10 significant teachers $1,000 in cash. This award ceremony will be held by R.J. McElroy Trust and KWWL television for the 32nd time. 

Back in 2018, the Gold Star Award received 954 nominations. Tammy Frahm, a special education teacher at Cedar Falls High School, was one out of 10 teachers to be awarded the Gold Star Award at the time. Since 1989, more than 390 teachers across Northeast Iowa have received the Gold Star Award, including band teacher Gerald Ramsey and CAPS teacher Kenton Swartley.

English teacher Brian Winkel, who has been a familiar face around the Cedar Falls High School since 2001, received the award in 2007. Winkel knew years ago that he wanted to be a teacher. “When I was younger I was going through some personal things, and my teachers would always be that outlet for me. They always showed that love and support I needed. I also really looked up to them and saw them as second parents to me in addition to my single parent mom.”

For Winkel, the Gold Star was an unexpected honor. “When I first [learned that I] received the award, I was really surprised and was like ‘wow’ because of the lack of recognition for teachers. As a teacher we try to put the spotlight more on the students to let them be the ones who shine,” Winkel said. After receiving the award, Winkel was in the Sturgis and My Waterloo Day parades. He said he also got a kick out of when he saw his family and former students cheering him on in the crowds. 

After the ceremonies, Winkel learned that the student who nominated him was a student who had struggles and needed a teacher to help her, just like teachers had done for him years ago. “I feel like I can relate with students who are struggling with many things, and I tend to have patience with that,” Winkel said. “I am also very passionate about what I teach, and I hope I can light that fire within for all my students.” 

Although teachers aren’t allowed to be granted the Gold Star Award twice, Winkel still holds true to his character like it was 2001. “Would I like to be awarded again? Of course! But why do that when you can nominate a different teacher to give them that special opportunity of receiving an award and feeling of recognition,” he said.

To nominate a teacher, students can fill out a form on the Gold Star Teachers website by Feb. 20. If you plan to attend, the Gold Star Award for the Outstanding Teaching ceremony will be held on Tuesday, May 24 with more details to follow.

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