Krystal Colbert, 2023 Iowa Teacher of the Year, gave an impactful presentation to the Southeast Polk High School Teacher Academy earlier this week. As we have proudly mentioned previously, Krystal is one of our very own, a Mitchellville Elementary teacher, serving as Teacher of the Year for the ’23-’24 school year!

Teacher Academy, taught by business teacher Chelsey Sadler, is just one of the Southeast Polk Work-Based Learning programs available to our high school students. The Academy is a hybrid learning environment with class time learning and observation/practicum in Kindergarten – 8th grade classrooms around the district. During the fall semester, the 17 Academy students spend 8 weeks at one grade level, then switch to another grade level for the last 8 weeks.  In the spring semester, students are placed in one classroom for the whole semester where they’ll be observed twice as they teach lessons.

“A large focus area of mine during my Teacher of the Year duties includes working with Teacher Prep programs across the state, both at the collegiate and high school level. I have always hosted student teachers, practicum teachers, and even a few SEP Teacher Academy students in my classroom, and I’m so excited to be able to invest even more intentional time and energy into soon-to-be educators!” shared Krystal.
Krystal Colbert Teaching with GRACEThe message Krystal shared with the Teacher Academy is similar to the message she shared as our All Staff Welcome Back Keynote speaker: the importance of Choosing G.R.A.C.E (Growth mindset, Relationships, All means all, Celebrate, Evolve) in our classroom settings. Choosing G.R.A.C.E. is a tremendous way to fulfill, refuel, and give hope for the future. Focusing on these 5 priorities can help teachers feel success and joy in the work they do every day.  But choosing G.R.A.C.E. isn’t limited to the classroom!  Choosing G.R.A.C.E is choosing to see the best in ourselves, as well as our students and their families, our colleagues, and our administrators. Krystal shared the concept of “finding your marigold.” This flower is used to help other plants grow, so she encouraged students to surround yourself with people who uplift and encourage you. Plant yourself near others who are encouraging, helpful, positive, sincere and love their job. Sounds like great advice for all of us!
Krystal Colbert asks students to Pause and Reflect
Krystal also shared her “why”: Why she became a teacher, and encouraged the students to contemplate their “why” as well.
When Krystal asked the students why they want to become teachers, they answered:
  • Because of the positive teachers I have had
  • Watching “light bulb moments” when you see a kid learn
  • I come from a family of teachers
  • Society – I want to do something important and spread knowledge





She also asked if they experienced any “aha” moments from her presentation to which they responded:

  • Marigolds – finding yours
  • All means all – focusing on all kids
  • Helped students figure out their own why
  • The importance of celebrating
  • As a teacher, asking yourself, “Would I want to be a student in my own class?
  • Observing other teachers and how important that is


It was an impactful class and enjoyed by all.

Fun Fact: Did you know that several previous Teacher Academy students are now teachers at SEP?!