Ibarra’s impressive track record of bringing science to life for young people was a strong reason for his selection as the Wal-Mart Iowa State Teacher of the Year earlier this fall. From building “solar cars” that share the power of energy conservation, to activities that demonstrate the impact of daily activities on our environment, Dr. Ibarra is a respected leader in his field and among his students, and is nationally renowned for his work in educating students about the environment. He was nominated by one of his students at a local Wal-Mart in Iowa City early last spring.
Born in Mexico in a home near the one-room schoolhouse where his mother was the teacher and learning to speak English in the fourth grade, Ibarra is a role model for many. His life’s work is a testament to how one educator can positively impact not only his students, but the community at large.
The national award was announced during a surprise ceremony at the Englert Civic Theatre in downtown Iowa City. Representatives from Wal-Mart and Phi Delta Kappa joined students and teachers along with local dignitaries to honor Ibarra. As part of the award, Ibarra’s school received a $25,000 educational grant from Wal-Mart for the honor in addition to state and local grants totaling $36,000.
During the ceremony, Wal-Mart invited Ibarra on a “science trip” to visit the retailer’s Aurora, Colo., Wal-Mart Supercenter – the company’s second experimental store focused on environmental sustainability– opening Nov. 9. Environmental sustainability has become an increasing point of focus for Wal-Mart. The Aurora store features more than 50 experiments aimed at saving energy and helping the environment.
Ibarra will receive a personal tour of these experiments at the store and learn first-hand what the world’s largest retailer is doing to help the environment. Through this experience, Wal-Mart hopes to provide Ibarra the opportunity to share new information and ideas with his students. In addition, Ibarra will receive a personalized trophy, certificate and one-year membership to Phi Delta Kappa.
The National Teacher of the Year program is a part of Wal-Mart’s long-term commitment to support education throughout the United States. The program will provide $4.3 million this year to schools across the country and honor top teachers. Since its inception in 1995, Wal-Mart’s Teacher of the Year program has recognized more than 25,000 teachers nationwide. This year, Wal-Mart will contribute more than $45 million in support of educational initiatives.
“Dr. Ibarra is an amazing teacher who uses creative, hands-on activities to open the world of discovery for his students,” said Betsy Reithemeyer, vice president of corporate affairs and head of the Wal-Mart & SAM’S CLUB Foundation. “He represents the ingenuity and inspiration of teachers everywhere who are helping young people to see how they can make a positive difference, and is a great example of why it is so important that Wal-Mart recognize teachers like him every year.”
“Dr. Ibarra is an outstanding representative of the thousands of outstanding teachers in this country who inspire their students every day,” said Dr. William Bushaw, executive director of Phi Delta Kappa International. “He and other teachers like him make learning fun, yet challenge their students to excel. At the same time, he makes a special effort to connect his classroom to the community. Teachers like Dr. Ibarra make special contributions to their schools and beyond, and Phi Delta Kappa is delighted to be a part of program sponsored by the Wal-Mart & SAM’S CLUB Foundation that honors classroom teachers for serving America’s next generation!”
Ibarra has received other national honors including being named one of the top teachers in the country by USA Today and participating in the Fulbright Memorial Fund Master Teacher Program. His class last year won the President’s Environmental Youth Award. Ibarra list of honors includes the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship, National Science Teachers Association Distinguished Teaching Award and the Milken National Educator Award.
Local winners were named in May by each of Wal-Mart’s 3,800 stores, SAM’S CLUBS and distribution centers. These winners were chosen based on community nominations. Each teacher’s school received a $1,000 donation in their honor and a $50 gift card for the teacher during National Teacher
Appreciation Week. Local winners had the option to complete a comprehensive application form for the state winner phase to be reviewed by Phi Delta Kappa International. State winners, including a winner from Puerto Rico, were announced this fall and were automatically considered for the National Teacher of the Year award.
Applicants also submitted two letters of recommendation – one from an immediate supervisor and one from a colleague, a community member, a student’s parent or a student.
More information about Teacher of the Year, Wal-Mart’s charitable giving per state and other programs can be found at www.walmartfacts.com or www.walmartfoundation.org .
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and SAM'S CLUB locations in the United States. Internationally, the company operates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom.