Even though the award was given in an atypical way, outside of a school building during the time of the coronavirus, Todd Siefker was still able to get the surprise honor of Teacher of the Year in the Sioux City School District.
District officials reached Siefker at his home on Monday afternoon, since no in-school instruction has taken place since March 16 in Iowa districts.
West High School staff were participating in a Zoom meeting, when school officials arrived for the surprise at Siefker’s home, so his colleagues were able to celebrate virtually. That step allowed his family of five at home to participate in the celebration as well.
Siefker is a Spanish teacher at West High School and the downtown Career Academy, and in a release Superintendent, Paul Gausman said Siefker is proof that teaching is an act of love.
“While he is an astute teacher of the Spanish language, his impact is so much greater than that. His students develop genuine connections with him and see him as a lifelong mentor. His teaching methods inspire curiosity and enthusiasm. And, his colleagues echo sincere sentiments of respect and admiration,” Gausman said.
Siefker teaches several Spanish related courses — encouraging students to embrace not just the Spanish language, but many aspects of Spanish culture, and even Spanish literature — and coaches freshman boys basketball and girls tennis for West High.
Students create projects videotaping themselves reading children’s books in Spanish, and these videos have been shared with detained children at the border, according to Gausman.
“He is described as the epitome of a hard-working teacher that juggles many responsibilities effortlessly, while always demonstrating kindness and respect for others,” Gausman said.
A fellow, unnamed, teacher who nominated Siefker for the award wrote, “Inspiration is something that Todd exhibits every day, in every setting. As a lover of language, Todd can often be seen performing raps, poetry and narratives for his classes, the faculty, the entire student body, and even the community. He never shies away from the opportunity to use his language to inspire others.”
The award is announced each year in the district. Last April, the honor went to Luis Lemus, a dual language teacher at Irving Dual Language Elementary.
View the full article by Bret Hayworth on the Sioux City Journal.