About one year ago, the Ames School District lost board member Dan Woodin. He was well-respected for his genuine care for the students and staff of the district.
An award was set up in remembrance, honoring one teacher each year who best continues his legacy of working to improve Ames’ schools. The winner of the inaugural Dan Woodin Award for Excellence in Education is Marcia Downing, Success teacher at Kate Mitchell Elementary.
As a Success teacher, Downing “provide(s) additional instruction and practice for children that would benefit from supplemental instruction in the areas of reading or math.”
She says she has always been “drawn to those children that have fewer advantages, or start school less equipped to learn,” and as such has done all she can to help those children, and all the others she encounters, flourish in school.
After receiving her teaching degree from the University of Minnesota, Downing taught third grade in inner city Minneapolis before working as the lead teacher at a school for homeless elementary-aged youth. After that, Downing moved to Canada, teaching in an Italian area of Montreal.
In Canada, Downing developed a diverse range of skills, teaching Italian children in English, for a Catholic, French-language district. After the birth of her daughters, Downing moved to half-time with the district, where she took on many different roles. Her duties included general education classrooms, home-bound instruction and religious and moral education. She credits her 20 years of experience in Canada for a “diverse and multicultural skill set.”
In the mid-90s, Downing moved back to the United States with her family and was hired by the Ames district. She says she is very appreciative of “the caring attitude and wonderful teamwork that goes into (the) students at Kate Mitchell,” and the staff “all work together to have our children see school as a safe and welcoming place. We want them to understand that positive choices, and a solid education, are key to a bright future.”
In regard to the award, Downing says “It was beyond gratifying to win this award. It is always nice when people notice what you do, but receiving the award was a very tangible way of seeing that others felt it is valued and important. I felt very honored and appreciated!”