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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 14, 2005

Former Cedar Rapids Principal, UI Professor Honored For Youth Work

The Greater Cedar Rapids Area Council on Youth Leadership (GCRACYL) has given University of Iowa education professor Susan Lagos Lavenz its 2005 Visionary Youth Leadership Award.

Lavenz, a clinical associate professor in the college's Department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies and an expert in the areas of special education, early childhood education and educational reform, was recognized during the Youth of Today Leaders of Tomorrow 25th Annual Youth Salute Sept. 19 at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

"It was an absolutely huge honor for me," said Lavenz, a UI faculty member since 2003 who helps prepare future school principals. "When I looked at the list of previous recipients, I was very, very honored."

A longtime educator and former principal of two Cedar Rapids schools (Grant Early Childhood Center from 1990-1996 and Johnson Elementary from 1996-2003), Lavenz said students never fail to impress her with their enthusiasm and optimism for the future, despite many criticisms about today's youth and the quality of schools.

"In my mind there's not a better place to be than to be with young people," Lavenz said.

Each year at the Youth Salute GCRACYL, a chapter of the nonprofit National Council on Youth Leadership, recognizes and awards outstanding high school youth leaders. GCRACYL also recognizes a leader in the community who has been a positive role model, cares about young people and makes a difference in the community.

Previous recipients since the award's inception in 1987 include Cedar Rapids Boys and Girls Club Director John Tursi, Rockwell Collins President and CEO Clay Jones, Former U.S. Ambassador to Malta and current vice president of the Hoover Presidential Library Sally Novetzke, former UI men's basketball coach Tom Davis and former Iowa backfield coach and University of Michigan head coach and star player Chalmers "Bump" Elliott.

Lura McBride, a GCRACYL board member who nominated Lavenz for the award, called Lavenz "an amazing woman" with an "extensive history as a role model and facilitator for a broad spectrum of youth."

"She spent many of her early years advocating and helping mentally and disabled children," McBride added. "She has worked in classrooms and administration. She was an associate principal and has held two different principal positions in Cedar Rapids schools. And she is currently an associate professor at the University of Iowa, educating principals on how to make their schools the best they can be for the students, teachers and parents."

McBride said that Lavenz's focus on early childhood education demonstrates her commitment to establishing a solid foundation for youth, and for future youth leaders.

"She has always had a vision, a dream -- she is committed and exudes passion -- and she has the motivation and drive to continue to make education a positive place for our youth," McBride said. "Susie is always making a difference. She is a true leader."

Lavenz said one of the proudest accomplishments of her career was being part of a nearly $500,000, three-year federal grant project in 2000 designed to incorporate methods and structures used by an internationally renowned preschool program in Reggio-Emilia, Italy, into the program being established at the time in the Johnson School of the Arts. Lavenz had studied the preschool program while principal at Grant Early Childhood Center in Cedar Rapids.

"Reggio-Emilia was recognized as one of the greatest preschool programs in the world," Lavenz said, adding that she visited the school twice. "The grant allowed me to apply what I'd learned in Italy to our school."

She said that because Reggio-Emilia used art extensively in its curriculum, the knowledge she gained in Italy was useful when she transferred to Johnson, which was a magnet school of the arts.

Lavenz holds a Ph.D. and M.S. degree, both from the University of Iowa, and a B.S. degree from St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana.

She is a current member of the American Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, School Administrators of Iowa and Iowa Council of Professors of Educational Administration.

She is also a recipient of many awards. In 1995, the National Association of School Board Executives featured her in its "Principal Magazine" as running one of the country's outstanding early childhood centers. In 1986, she received the Association for Retarded Citizens' Outstanding Award, and in 1977 she received an Outstanding Performance Award from the U.S. Department of the Army for her work as a teacher with the Department of Defense Overseas Schools in Karlsruhe, Germany.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu.