Friday, March 24, 2017

By Andy Goodell

Renee Person, a teacher at Kirkwood Elementary School in Coralville, Iowa, earned the 2017 Phyllis Yager Diversity Teaching Award during the 2017 Diversity in Education Conference on Friday, March 24.

Educators who earn this award have an innovative and unique perspective on promoting and building respect for diversity in the classroom. They also demonstrate that they have gone above and beyond the required curriculum concerning the teaching or implementing of diversity.

Person says that during her time as a teacher, her interest in promoting and building respect for diversity in the classroom has grown to become her purpose or what she calls her, “why.”

"It's this ‘why’ that’s driven me to discover, refine, and share my values, talents, passions, and skills with my colleagues and my students alike,” says Person.

Phyllis Yager received a Master of Arts in 1957 from the UI and a doctorate in 1983 from the UI College of Education. She is the late wife of Science Education Professor Emeritus Robert E. Yager, who also received a Master of Science in 1953 and a doctorate in 1957 from Iowa. Phyllis Yager devoted her career to advocating multicultural opportunities and gender-affirming activities through her work as a teacher in the Iowa City School District and later as a consultant to the Grant Wood Area Education Agency.

In addition to the Phyllis Yager Diversity Teaching Award Ceremony, the 2017 Diversity in Education Conference included multiple breakout sessions, as well as a keynote talk by Adrienne Dixson, associate professor of education policy, organization and leadership at the College of Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The UI College of Education Diversity Committee was the main sponsor for this conference that drew around 30 educators from area school districts as well as UI College of Education students, faculty, and staff.

This conference at the Lindquist Center was held simultaneously with the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Spring Conference, with support from the UI College of Education and many other groups. This conference was held at the Sheraton Iowa City Hotel, which included keynote speaker Jane Elliott, an anti-racism proponent and former Iowa educator. More than 300 educators of all kinds attended this conference, with many also attending portions of the 2017 Diversity in Education Conference at the Lindquist Center.