Scott Slechta, an English and Language Arts teacher at Fairfield High School, was named the Iowa Teacher of the Year in November. He said his students made the honor possible.
“I’m going to say this in a very honored way, in a very humbled way. The Department of Education said they have never received so many student nominations than they did for me,” Slechta said.
“So I thank the students for what they did to get me to this point.”
And the students thank him. Senior Baily Kemp called Slechta his favorite teacher.
“He has taught me so much, not just in Composition and Intro to Literature but just life lessons in general,” Kemp said.
Part of the appeal comes from the way Slechta's classroom is set up. It feels like a coffee shop with big, bright, comfy couches and chairs. One of the walls is painted with a substance that allows it to be used like a dry erase board.
“The room has fluidity, it has space, it has color, it has light,” said Slechta.
He said the room is meant to create a relaxed environment for students, and he said it helps him promote four key concepts: communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.
However, Slechta is not getting to spend much time in that classroom these days. As a part of his duties as Teacher of the Year, he had to step down from the classroom for a year and a half so he can travel the country with the teachers chosen in other states.
In addition, Slechta now serves on five state committees. He travels to colleges to participate in teacher prep programs and gives keynote speeches to local high schools.
Once Slechta’s time as Teacher of the Year is over, he can return to the classroom. But he says he won't do that.
Slechta recently started working on his Doctorate degree. He said he plans to take time off from teaching and really focus on his degree. And once he receives it, he wants to teach at a college. He plans to show other teachers what he's learned about teaching.