Glenwood Community High School vocal music instructor Kay Fast was honored last week as one of two recipients of the Charles E. Lakin Outstanding Teacher Awards. Red Oak kindergarten teacher Melinda Smits was also recognized. Fast’s award was presented during a surprise ceremony in front of her colleagues, students and family members.
“I feel very honored and quite humble to receive the Lakin Teaching Award of Excellence,” Fast said. “There are so many amazing teachers right here in our own district. I’ve been in education for 31 years, and I still feel that excitement and passion for music, and truly love my students. While I’m not very comfortable being in the spotlight, this was truly a day that I’ll never forget. My family was there to share the moments with me, as well as my vocal students at the high school. What an amazing day.”
Fast and Smits each received $10,000, while their respective school districts received $2,500. Named after the Emerson native and well-known philanthropist, the Lakin awards are presented annually to educators in 25 Iowa school districts within 40 miles of Emerson.
Fast, who has served as the director of vocal music at GCHS for 11 years, said she is grateful for the award.
“As teachers, we give our best each and every day, never expecting any recognition or spotlight,” she said. “We do it because we truly love it and see teaching as a calling. This award really made me feel honored, appreciated and recognized for a lifetime of teaching . . . a huge thank you to Mr. Lakin, and students that submitted the nomination.”
GCHS principal Kerry Newman said Fast is deserving of the honor, noting she has taken the school’s vocal music program to unprecedented heights. Last month, for example, the GCHS Jazz Choir finished in first place at the Iowa Jazz Championships.
“Kay Fast is an outstanding teacher. She sets very high expectations for our students and they jump up to meet them every year,” Newman said. “Kay gets the most out of every child, finding their inner talents and gifts and then refining them.”
Prior to coming to Glenwood in 2001, Fast spent 19 years teaching in Villisca and one year in Red Oak.