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Release: March 3, 1999

Stilwell Junior High teacher to receive UI Distinguished Teacher Award March 16

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman will present V. Patrice Kraus, a seventh- and eighth-grade reading teacher at Stilwell Junior High in West Des Moines, with an Iowa Distinguished Teacher Award during a ceremony Tuesday, March 16 at the school.

Kraus, a teacher in the West Des Moines School District for 20 years, was cited for exemplary performance in the classroom, a commitment to lifelong learning and a driving passion to recognize students.

One of four teachers selected for the 1998 Iowa Distinguished Teacher Awards, Kraus will receive a $1,000 University of Iowa grant for equipment and teaching materials for the school during a classroom presentation at 1:30 p.m. March 16.

In announcing the awards, Coleman said: "As a graduate of Iowa public schools, and through my travels throughout the state, I know there are many, many examples of excellent teachers in Iowa classrooms. And I know the difference that their commitment makes in the lives of young people."

"The Distinguished Teacher Awards are our way of recognizing some of the very deserving people who don't often hear the words 'thank you,'" she added.

Coleman redesigned the awards ceremony in 1996 so that she could personally visit the school of each recipient and present the awards. She also created the $1,000 grant as a way of letting each school share in the honor.

Coleman will present the award to Kraus. Also on hand will be UI College of Education Interim Dean Richard Shepardson. Representing the school will be Stilwell Principal Les Aasheim, who nominated Kraus, as well as school board members, district administrators, teachers, staff and students and parents, past and present. The school's orchestra, band and chorus will perform during the special assembly.

Aasheim said he immediately thought of nominating Kraus after seeing an article in which Coleman described the kind of teachers for whom the University of Iowa designed the award.

"There's probably no other teacher about whom I've had parents or former students write me or call me and say, 'I don't know how my son or daughter could have made it without her.' Besides her performance in the classroom being exemplary, she works very hard to create a true learning community for our school. She does this by being aware of all the talents, gifts and abilities of students and staff."

Kraus began her career in 1967 teaching 10th-grade English at Merrillville Community School in Indiana. In 1979 she began working at the West Des Moines Community School District as an English as a Second Language instructor for K-12, joining Stilwell Junior High School in 1985 as a reading resource teacher.

She received a master's degree in education from Drake University in 1986, certifying her as a reading clinician. She received a master's degree in liberal arts with a concentration in English from Valparaiso University in 1976. And she received a bachelor's degree in English, with a speech and drama minor, from Valparaiso in 1967.

Kraus is a member of several professional organizations, including the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of English and the Iowa Writing Project.

The UI has presented the Distinguished Teacher Awards since former President James O. Freedman initiated the program in 1984.

Freedman established the awards to honor teachers who have profoundly influenced the lives of their students, particularly in the skills of critical reasoning and clarity of expression. The awards emphasize the UI's commitment to education and its recognition of the interdependence of K-12, community college and university education.

The Distinguished Teacher Awards are co-administered by the UI Office of the Provost and the UI College of Education. Each elementary, junior high school and high school in the state is invited to submit one nominee for the award each year.

Winners are chosen by a committee chaired by Shepardson. Other members are UI faculty and licensed teachers and administrators.

EDITORS: As part of the selection process for the Distinguished Teacher Awards, recipients are nominated by supervisors, colleagues, parents and students. Here's a sample of what V. Patrice Kraus' nominators wrote about her:

Supervisor: "Pat is the 'awareness' person in our school community. Honoring every student's experience is one of her driving passions. She develops bulletin boards, posters and other media packages to effectively display that learners not only consume and exhibit knowledge but that learners also serve as resources of knowledge."

Colleague: Pat "is a model advocate for students. Her students are often those who don't have much support at home. Not only does she awaken their genius, but she regularly passes on the lovable anecdotes about these kids to all their teachers so we recognize it, too."

Former student: "Mrs. Kraus has had a great influence on me. She taught me things that I will pass down to my children and I hope they pass down to their children. By introducing me to writers like Maya Angelou and Robert Frost, she opened up a whole new world for me."

Parent: "Without her help and guidance, a lot of kids would have fallen between the cracks. By the time my daughter had reached junior high, a lot of teachers had already given up on her. Then her life crossed paths with Mrs. Kraus. New hope. Mrs. Kraus looked for the best in her and found a hidden talent with words called poetry. With Mrs. Kraus' support and encouragement, she found enough confidence to read her poetry in public, with Mrs. Kraus there cheering her on."