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Another one of our favorite stories from 2020: "Decorah High School's Stephanie Steines is up for a prestigious award"

Posted: Wed, Dec 30, 2020 9:02 AM

Back in February, just shortly before our work here at became consumed by COVID-19, we ran a story about one of the many award-worthy teachers at Decorah High School.  It's one of our favorites because it highlights the commitment to learning and to students teachers were making long before a new virus showed up and demanded accommodations and changes. We shouldn't be surprised at their desire for students' successes during these unprecedented times because that's what teachers have been doing for a long time. Check out the full story here.

We recently reached out to Steines to get an update.  Showing her compassion and commitment once again, the following is her response:

"As for school and teaching, I guess I don't know for sure what to say. It has definitely been the most unique year of my teaching career. I won't soon forget the news we all got on March 15th at a little after 8pm that schools across the entire state would be shut down for four weeks. I remember being a bit in a state of shock when I listened to the governor make that announcement. That was followed by a flurry of emails from Kim Sheppard, Mark Lane, and a number of teachers with a whole lot of questions and not a lot of definitive answers for what it all meant for our work with students. Gradually, through the work of a lot of individuals, we were able to figure out next steps and, eventually, put together material for students to use to continue to work on and build skills. The move to remote learning last spring was challenging, but I am proud of the work of the staff in our district. Everyone worked to put their best foot forward to do the best we could for the students we serve. Was everything perfect? Certainly not. But, I think we all learned a lot and hopefully students and families recognized the Herculean efforts made and were able to feel some sense of accomplishment as we finished out the 2019-20 school year.

This school year has also presented its challenges, but I have felt so fortunate that we've been able to navigate a good deal of the year in person. Many of my colleagues in other states have been fully online with their students the entire school year, often with varying amounts of synchronous time with those students. And, while it is certainly possible to teach over Zoom, it does not compare to being face-to-face with a student; to make that direct connection regarding their understanding of the content and being able to address their questions and concerns on the spot. Perhaps other teachers have found a good way to do that remotely, but I, for one, have found that extremely difficult to replicate over Zoom. I remain hopeful that our community can continue to work together to ensure our students are able to spend as much time as possible in our school buildings working face-to-face with the professionals who care so much about their well-being and their continued growth and success in school.

I guess all of that still ends up being rather COVID-related, but like it or not, that's the reality we're all living in right now. In terms of an update directly related to the award…I did not receive the national PAEMST award. The other finalist, Sharon Jaeschke from Southeast Valley High School, was named the Iowa recipient in mathematics. Bradley Jacobson, from Central Academy, was the science recipient. I have been encouraged to submit an application again for the 2020-21 cycle and plan to do so."

Steines may not have won this prestigious award, but she, along with other dedicated teachers in our district, has certainly earned our thanks, respect, and gratitude.