Receives Outstanding Educator Award from Belin-Blank
Diane Pratt spent the last 20 years of her teaching career dedicated to educating gifted learners in the Fort Dodge Community School District.
In recognition of her years of dedication to gifted learners, the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development presented Pratt with the 2019 Outstanding Educator Award during the center’s annual Recognition Ceremony in October. According to Belin-Blank, the Outstanding Educator Award is given to recognize an educator with outstanding achievements in the field of gifted education.
“I was so humbled and surprised,” Pratt said of learning about the award. “The Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa is an international center for gifted development and it’s just very highly esteemed, so for them to recognize me with this award was just unfathomable almost. … I was really surprised and humbled because there are so many teachers that do so many great and wonderful things in our profession and I’m just a small part of it.”
Pratt started as the talented and gifted teacher for fifth- and sixth-graders at the former Fair Oaks Middle School in 2000. She continued teaching in the TAG program at the middle school level and eventually at the high school level for many years. Most recently, she was the talented and gifted specialist at Fort Dodge Middle School and the district facilitator of gifted services. She also has been the advisor for gifted learners at Fort Dodge Senior High and the coordinator of the Fort Dodge Middle School STEM Academy grant program.
Prior to working with TAG students, Pratt was a classroom teacher for 20 years.
In her 20 years working with TAG students, she touched the lives of nearly 500 students.
At the end of the 2018-2019 school year, Pratt “very reluctantly” retired.
“Every day, when I would go to work, I learned so much more from my kids than they ever did from me,” she said. “I miss the daily interaction with the kids, especially.”
Throughout her time as a TAG instructor, Pratt also served as a board member for the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association — including as president from 2010-2012 — and on the National Association of Gifted Children Professional Standards Committee.
This isn’t the first time Pratt has been honored by Belin-Blank.
In 2000, she was the recipient of the ITAG Research Award and the David W. Belin Excellence in Teaching Award.
FDCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesse Ulrich was proud to hear of Pratt’s recognition from the Belin-Blank Center.
“Mrs. Pratt has spent her entire career as an educator advocating and serving students,” he said. “Specifically, her passion, love and advocacy for students who are gifted are undeniable within the Fort Dodge Community School District. As a lifelong servant, her professionalism and passion are characteristics and a model for future and present educators who have the privilege of working with this population of students.”
Pratt said her favorite part of working with the TAG students in the district was being able to work with them for multiple years, not just at a single grade level.
“Every gifted learner is different, just like every learner is different. And they have very specific needs in order for them to develop,” she said. “And that’s some of the most fun I have, just seeing how they’ve grown over the years and how they continue to develop.”
Over the years, Pratt has received countless thank-you notes from graduates and former students. She said she hopes through her time working with them, she’s been able to instill a sense of believing in themselves, staying true to themselves and a desire to learn more and question everything.
Even in retirement, Pratt isn’t done working and advocating for students. She serves on the ITAG Governance Committee, the NACG Professional Standards Committee, as a mentor to new gifted educators in Iowa, and as a consultant with support for teachers and districts who strive to improve their gifted services.
“I don’t think I will ever really be done,” she said. “It’s just been my passion for so many years that anything I can do in any small way to help out or contribute, I want to do.”
Pratt said she is collaborating with some colleagues across the state to create a professional development course that can be taken online through the area education agencies for classroom teachers and instructional coaches to take.
She said she’s also planning on writing a student resource book to help give gifted students another tool to use when learning and solving problems.
“It’s just been a really rewarding profession for me,” Pratt said. “Teaching is, of course, but when I got into this part of teaching, it had everything for a well-rounded career. It had struggle, it had road blocks, it had celebrations, it had highs, lows, challenges — everything that one could possibly want in a career, and I’ve just been really blessed to be in that part of education because it’s been a good fit for me.”