For the second time in seven years, a Cedar Rapids teacher has been named Iowa Teacher of the Year. Speaking at a student assembly at Kennedy High School on Wednesday morning, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced George Anderson, who teaches history and is an assistant football coach at the school, has been selected for the award.
Anderson has been teaching at Kennedy for 13 years. Originally from South Carolina, Anderson first began thinking about becoming an educator while serving in the Marines.
“As we deployed and traveled places, I found myself always reading about the history and culture of where we are going,” Anderson said before the ceremony, in an interview published by the Iowa Department of Education (DOE). He found himself frequently giving impromptu little lectures on what he’d read to his Marine buddies.
“They started calling me ‘professor,’” Anderson said.
Anderson moved to Iowa after he left the Marine Corps, and worked in construction and in restaurants while attending college to prepare for a teaching career.
“I decided I wanted to go back into the community, and find the students that maybe aren’t in love with high school or the idea of secondary education — or really just [have] no big trajectory in life — and try to help those students out,” he said.
In 2006, Anderson graduated from the University of Iowa with a master’s degree in Social Science Education.
“Two weeks later I married my best friend, Stephanie Nicole, and I started teaching at John F. Kennedy High School that fall and have been a proud Cougar ever since,” he wrote on his Kennedy High staff page.
In his DOE interview, Anderson called teaching “a genuinely exciting career” with “no stale days.”
“Some days will break your heart, some days you’ll be on cloud nine,” he said.
Wednesday was a cloud-nine kind of day. As Anderson approached the stage at the pep rally, the students cheered, applauded and began chanting, “Anderson, Anderson.”
The Teacher of the Year honor has been awarded in Iowa since 1958. George Anderson is the first Cedar Rapids high school teacher to win the award. Tania Johnson was named Iowa Teacher of the Year in 2012 for her work as a kindergarten teacher at Jackson Elementary School in Cedar Rapids.