Education

‘Mad scientist’ named Idaho’s Teacher of the Year

Sherri Ybarra, state superintendent of public instruction, helped Pocatello kindergarten teacher Mary Spiker celebrate as the 2017 Idaho Teacher of the Year.
Sherri Ybarra, state superintendent of public instruction, helped Pocatello kindergarten teacher Mary Spiker celebrate as the 2017 Idaho Teacher of the Year. Provided by Marianne Richardson

A Pocatello kindergarten teacher, known for dressing up as a mad scientist to help kids learn, has been named Idaho’s Teacher of the Year for 2017.

Mary Spiker, 52, who has taught for 25 years, was honored this week by a visit from Idaho’s State School’s Superintendent Sherri Ybarra. She also receives $1,000.

Spiker, who teaches at Calude A. Wilcox Elementary School, started her school year not by focusing on the three Rs, but by helping students become a community. They learned about kindness, helping each other and celebrating each other’s achievements.

Every week, she introduces a new class cheer to be hollered out when students do well. A few weeks ago, it was the Elvis Presley line, “Thank you. Thank you very much.”

When the students studied nursery rhymes, a great way to become a solid reader, Spiker said, the kids came dressed in costume. One was a candle from the “Jack Be Nimble” verse.

Spiker is a dedicated teacher, said her principal Brenda Minder “Every lesson plan is always linked to the Idaho (education) standards. Her room is inviting. She really includes parents.”

The Department of Education praised her involvement in the Idaho Council of the International Reading Association, and the school’s Building Level Math Coach program.

“This award is just one way that we can recognize the hard work of our amazing Idaho teachers and continue to change the culture and climate throughout the state by giving recognition where it is due,” Ybarra said.

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