Sara Russell: Life as a Teacher: Serving with Courage, Compassion, & Collaboration


2022 Iowa Teacher of the Year Sara Russell visited Luther April 25 to give a talk on her life as a teacher. Photo courtesy of Sara Russell.

Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela once said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” However, in order to educate you need teachers, like 2022 Iowa Teacher of the Year Sara Russell.

Russell came to Luther College on April 25 to give a talk called “Life as a Teacher: Serving with Courage, Compassion, & Collaboration” to future educators and interested community members. As a high school social studies teacher, she has 21 years of teaching experience. Russell explained what winning the Iowa Teacher of the Year award meant to her. 

“It is a huge honor, ” Russell said. “It wasn’t something I ever anticipated happening and I really see myself as a representative of all teachers in Iowa this year. It is an honor to have this position.” 

As part of this honor, Russell gets to tour Iowa this year and give talks in many different places, just like the one she gave at Luther. Many people attended this Center for Ethics and Public Engagement-sponsored event, one of them being Mary Brady (‘25). Brady wants to work in secondary education and an event like this was highly beneficial for herself and her portfolio. 

“The idea that courage and being compassionate with your students can help further your teaching sounded very interesting and promising for my future career as a teacher,” Brady said. “It was a great experience and opportunity to hear from the 2022 Iowa Teacher of the year since it is something you will not get to do every year.” 

People find their passion for teaching at different points in their lives. Brady, who is a sophomore, knows that she wants to be a teacher, but other people might take longer to figure it out. Russell pointed out that it took her until her junior year of college to know she wanted to be a teacher. As a student, she knew she wanted to do something that would positively impact other people but never realized that education would be the path she would take. Russell offered some words of encouragement for those still deciding if teaching is what they want to do.

“If you want to go into education, do not let anything deter you,” Russell said. “There is a lot of noise around education right now, and sometimes people are concerned about whether it is the right field for them to go into. But for me, I just think it is the most rewarding life you can choose. You just have to be brave and willing to be courageous in your teaching and also willing to put yourself out there while knowing that you are making a good choice and students need you.” 

Bella Bamlet (‘25) was also in attendance. She plans to go into elementary education, and Russell’s enjoyment of her time with her students resonated with Bamlet. 

“I love seeing the kids progress, not only in academics, but as humans as well,” Bamlet said. 

Throughout her talk, Russell taught the future educators in attendance valuable skills and techniques to implement in the classrooms. In the end, Russell shared that the passion for her job comes from her daily interactions with students. 

“Hands down my favorite part of being a teacher is my students,” Russell said. “They are the reason I come to school, and they bring me so much joy. They are just so amazing. The things that they think about and the changes that they want to make to the world. They are no longer these crazy ideas but actual actionable steps that they want to take, and I feel inspired and know that we will be okay in the world because I look at my students and what they are able to do.”