Glenwood Middle School Social Studies Teacher Receives Lakin Award
A social studies teacher at the Glenwood Middle School has been named the recipient of the Charles E. Lakin Outstanding Teacher Award.
Kelsey Miller was presented the award during a surprise ceremony last Monday in the school gymnasium. The Charles E. Lakin Outstanding Teacher Award is given annually to four southwest Iowa public school teachers from non-urban schools within a 40-mile radius of Emerson, which was the hometown of the late philanthropist Charles Lakin. Winners of the Lakin Award receive $10,000 for personal use and their respective district receives an award of $2,500.
Miller was among 220 nominees for the award.
“I was definitely surprised,” Miller said. “I was just instantaneously overwhelmed but also super appreciative. I work with so many wonderful teachers here at the middle school who are more than deserving of the award, too.”
A nomination letter stated Miller develops her students’ ability to think fully about complex issues and not tell them what to think, which sets her class apart from many others.
“I ask some compelling questions in class – big idea questions that require the kids to really do some research and investigation into sources and then they can form their opinion based on the evidence that they find.
“Those compelling questions are supposed to really encourage the kids to think about an issue fully and then give them plenty of time to figure out how they feel and why they feel the way they do. We spend a lot of time talking about valid and reliable sources and how to evaluate bias and neutrality.”
Miller said topics of discussion in her classroom often focus on pertinent global issues. Classroom issues this year have included the war in Ukraine, nuclear proliferation and migration.
“Current and contemporary global issues are always changing and evolving so what is taught this year might not be what is taught next year,” she said. “We spend a lot of time building some background knowledge, talking to each other, learning from each other and sharing our ideas because for some kids, current events is definitely not in their realm of what they spend their time doing during the course of a day.”
Miller is in her 13th year as a full-time teacher with the Glenwood Community School District. Prior to her hiring, she was a student teacher in Glenwood while earning her bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University. Miller’s first nine years in the district were spent teaching special education, with a focus on reading and language arts. She’s in her fourth year teaching social studies classes at GMS.
Miller, who also has a master’s degree from Morningside University, said she enjoys her work and is hopeful someday she can move into a position that would allow her to do some instructional coaching with other teachers.
“Right now, I am really happy to be where I’m at working with students every day and getting to share my passions with history and social studies,” she said. “But, there is so much more reading and critical thinking involved. I’m hoping they’ll take some of those skills into high school and later on into life and have some of those harder conversations and do some harder thinking that we don’t all do.”
Middle School Principal Heidi Stanley said Miller is deserving of the honor.
“Kesley is a very dedicated educator and is passionate about teaching and learning,” Stanley said. “She uses a variety of strategies to engage her students in the learning process.”
Stanley noted that Miller serves as the middle school technology integration teacher and serves on both building and district leadership teams.
“Kelsey is well respected by both her students and her colleagues and is an inspiration to all that are fortunate enough to work with her,” she said.