Becca Palmer and Dr. Tom Bell
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Thomas O. Bell Teacher of
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2011 Thomas Bell Award recipient Becca Palmer

2011 Thomas O. Bell Award

For Whom the Bell Extols: Palmer Named Thomas O. Bell Award Winner

As a student at the University of Idaho, Becca Palmer went through a couple of different majors, in search of the right career fit. Three months before graduating with a public communications degree, Palmer found her passion after she was strongly encouraged to take on a youth group class at her church: she was meant to be a teacher.

“I felt it the first time I walked into that junior high youth group – this is what I was meant to do,” says Palmer. “[Now], at the end of the day, I still feel rejuvenated – and that feels great.”

That passion has paid off both professionally and personally for the Enterprise, Ore., and Walla Walla, Wash., native. Palmer, now an English, speech, and theatre teacher at Rathdrum’s Lakeland High School, recently earned the University of Idaho’s Thomas O. Bell Teacher of the Year Award. The competitive award, chosen by a University committee, was created in 1996 by Bell and is a $2,000 cash prize that honors excellence in Idaho teaching.

For Bell, who was on hand to present the award this year to Palmer, the award honors “an Idaho teacher who best reflects the highest standards of teaching. The characteristics of such teachers include enthusiasm, effectiveness, integrity, leadership, knowledge of pedagogy and content, ability to motivate students, and a genuine concern for children and their learning.”

For the College of Education, the annual award is an opportunity to seek out role models that reflect the best of Idaho teachers.

“We feel Ms. Palmer exemplifies each of the characteristics that Dr. Bell holds in high esteem, in addition to working hard to be a contributing member of her own community, and teaching her students to do the same,” says College of Education Dean Corinne Mantle-Bromley, who appointed the committee that summarized Palmer’s strengths. “Most importantly, we are most impressed with her commitment to giving back to her community, involving her students in donating proceeds from the class’ theater performances to non-profits important within her community.”

Palmer followed her passion at the University of Idaho, earning her teaching certificate in 2001 and then graduating with a master’s in education in 2003. After all, being a Vandal is in her blood: her father, brother and an aunt all graduated from the University of Idaho.

“We have a lot of alumni in the family, and when I was looking for a school, it was really the right fit,” says Palmer. “I liked that it was big enough and there were plenty of opportunities, but it was also small enough to get a lot of one-on-one time with the professors.”

After eight years on the job at Lakeland High School, she still feels that passion for teaching and for her students. It’s not just the teaching for Palmer, but working in a learning environment that makes her excited to head to work in the morning. Every day, she says, she learns from her colleagues and her students – and that is the most rewarding aspect of her job.

“I’ve gained so much from my students,” says Palmer. “I take every opportunity I can to learn from others.”