Central teacher honored Gritzner named NE Iowa Teacher of Year

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Ann Gritzner’s Teacher of the Year honor
On hand to celebrate Ann Gritzner’s Teacher of the Year honor were former students Kate Lower, Jacob Jansen and Andrey Shirbroun.
Ann Grtizner is surrounded by the current members of her Global Science class
Central science teacher Ann Grtizner is surrounded by the current members of her Global Science class, which was interrupted Friday for a special announcement: Gritzner has been selected as the 2019 Northeast Iowa STEM Teacher of the Year.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

Central science teacher Ann Gritzner was caught off guard last Friday afternoon when High School Principal Noah Reinhart knocked on her door during her last class of the day and asked if he could come in for a minute.
She was even more surprised when Reinhart entered her room with an entourage of parents, former students, a colleague or two, school board members and several photographers, camera men and reporters.

The reason for the interruption was to inform Gritzner that she had been selected as the 2019 Northeast Iowa STEM Teacher of the Year. The honor recognizes educators who take extraordinary steps to enhance their students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Only six Iowa teachers, one per region, receive the honor.

Speechless when the presentation began, Gritzner eventually found her voice and in characteristic style deflected the attention from her to others in the room.

“I look around and see a lot of faces, and I know I couldn’t do this without all of them—without all of you,” she said. She later added, “In STEM education more than any other it takes the support of community, staff, administration, students, parents and others to truly make any teacher a success. I’m very fortunate to have found that here in the Central community.”

Gritzner has been at Central for more than two decades. The youngest of three children, she grew up in Manchester where her father was a small business owner and her mom was a stay-home-mom who helped in the family enterprise. Gritnzer graduated from West Delaware High School and the University of Iowa. She was originally a pre-med student but switched after taking an education class on a whim that included a practical component.

“I fell in loving with teaching,” she said, adding that science was her first love and therefore the only subject she considered pursuing.

“I credit my father with instilling a love of the natural world in me,” she continued. “He was an avid outdoorsmen and passed that on to me.”

And Gritzner, in turn, has passed that love of science on to hundreds of students.

“She’s the best teacher I ever had, and the reason I’m doing what I’m doing now,” said 2016 Central graduate Jacob Jansen. Gritzner’s popular Global Science class sparked an interest in sustainability that Jansen now plans to make his life work. Jansen was an early leader of the school’s composting project, which received numerous accolades and awards.

Now a student at Loras College, he’s currently working on reducing plastic waste in Dubuque. Jansen was one of three former students who spoke Friday afternoon. Andrey Shirbroun, a 2018 Central graduate, and Kate Lower, who graduated in 2012, also spoke about Gritzner’s impact on their lives and studies.

The process of being named a STEM Teacher of the Year begins with a nomination, which can come from anyone familiar with a teacher’s work. Theresa Eberhardt, whose three children have taken classes with Gritzner, launched the nomination process. The significance of Eberhardt’s effort was not lost on Gritzner.

“It’s very rewarding that (the nomination) came from a parent...parents, along with their students, are the true stakeholders of education and it makes me proud that they recognize what I do,” she added.
Gritzner is a recognized leader in a student-centered classroom approach known as project-based learning. Her students’ work has drawn positive attention to the school not just from all over the country, according to Superintendent Nick Trenkamp.

“I remember talking with one of our students who graduated early and he told me if he had more classes like Ms. Gritzner’s, he would have stayed in school until the end,” Trenkamp continued. “This is just one of many comments I have heard from our students about the level of engagement and learning happening in Ms. Gritzner’s classroom.”

Formerly known as the STEM Education Award for Inspired Teaching, the Teacher of the Year Award honors one educator from each of six STEM regions. Teachers are recognized for their contribution and dedication to STEM education in Iowa. The award, sponsored by the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and Kemin Industries, provides a $1,500 cash award for the recipient’s personal use and $1,500 for classroom use. Gritzner plans to gather ideas from her students before spending the classroom portion of her award. All six teachers will be honored in February at a reception hosted by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.

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