Iowans Shout Out Their Favorites for Teacher Appreciation Week

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By Amie Rivers

May 10, 2023

We asked you to name a teacher who impacted your life, and got these wonderful stories (plus added our own favorite teachers!):

‘Comfortable and welcome’

Ace Vaughn-Godfrey, 18, a senior at Johnston High School, said he appreciated Ms. Katie Black, his art teacher for three years, for showing up “for every student she has,” he said.

“I’ve had some very hard times during high school, and she’s always been the one I would go to,” Vaughn-Godfrey wrote.

“I remember one time when we were at an art show, and I didn’t feel like my art should’ve been at the show. I was super upset, crying and having a panic attack, but somehow she calmed me down.

“Just by saying that I belonged there with the others’ art made me feel like it had value. Even if it wasn’t ‘good,’ it had value to me and that’s what mattered. The fact that she made me realize my artwork had meaning meant so much to me,” he said.

Ace Vaughn-Godfrey, right, with his art teacher, Katie Black.

“She’s always made sure that I feel comfortable and welcome in her classroom,” he continued. “Ms. Black is very inclusive and wants everyone to try something, even if they don’t think they’re good at it. She will always find a way to help and make things better for anyone.”

“I’ve never felt like a teacher has understood me more,” Vaughn-Godfrey added. “I’m honestly going to miss having class with her! She’s the sweetest teacher I’ve ever had. I think I told her this once, but to me she feels like the cool supportive aunt. She really means that much to me.”

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‘Truly cared’

Fourth-grade teacher Dorothy Keegan had an impact on Kerry Johnson in 1970 at Lambert Elementary in the West Delaware School District.

“I loved listening to her read out loud, especially ‘Caddie Woodlawn,’” Johnson, now 62, said. “Mrs. Keegan was so kind to everyone. I remember loving to go to school every day. I wanted to be just like her!”

In fact, Johnson did become just like Mrs. Keegan, teaching fourth grade herself for 17 years, and elementary grades for 36 years total.

But Johnson also appreciates one of her daughter’s teachers, too: Liz Fox, an English teacher at Decorah High School.

“Mrs. Fox was only one of two teachers who truly cared about our daughter when she was going through some hard times in high school,” Johnson said. “She saw her strengths and encouraged our daughter to expand upon them. She cared about her both academically and personally. She helped build her up while others (adults & students) tried to knock her down. Mrs. Fox gave her confidence to succeed.”

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‘Great culture of collaboration’

Liz Schwind wanted to shout out Lorraine Smirl, her AP calculus teacher at Iowa City High in 2008-09.

Starting Line staff shouts out their faves

Community Editor Amie Rivers remembers her eighth-grade middle school language arts teacher for exuding and inspiring confidence in being herself.


Happy #teacherappreciationweek to all, especially Ms. Terri Hoffman at West Middle in Muscatine, the first teacher who ever said “hey gay people aren’t bad, actually” and made a huge difference in my life. 🫶

♬ original sound – Amie

Reporter Nikoel Hytrek remembered her high school speech and drama coach Denise Heiman, who “took no shit from anyone, but she also accepted every student that she worked with.”

Hytrek also shouted out “honorable mentions” of middle school English teacher Carla Hubert, high school history teacher Stan Galloway and high school Spanish teacher Jill Stratton.


In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, Reporter Nikoel Hytrek shares a story about a teacher who influenced her life.

♬ original sound – Iowa Starting Line – Iowa Starting Line

Chief Political Correspondent Ty Rushing had great relationships with plenty of his teachers, but gave special praise to the late Alice Bennett, AKA Mrs. B.

Mrs. B was Ty’s speech teacher during his freshman year of high school and would later be his journalism/yearbook teacher in his junior and senior years. He says it’s safe to say he would not have pursued his career path without her influence.

Mrs. B would still check in on Ty over the years and sent him various books she taught he should read. A teacher never stops teaching her students.


by Amie Rivers

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  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.

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