Two UNI alumni receive the Yager Exemplary Teaching Recognition Award

The Yager Exemplary Teaching Recognition Award, established by the Robert and Phyllis Yager Education Fund for Excellence, recently recognized two University of Northern Iowa alumni with awards.

This year's recipients are: Ashley Cardamone, 7-9th grade art teacher from Holmes Junior High in Cedar Falls and Elizabeth Mastalio, high school mathematics teacher from Mid City High School in Davenport.Dean John Fritch and Wendy Miller with the award winners

The intent of the awards from the Yager Education Fund for Excellence Award is to recognize exemplary K-12 teaching by University of Northern Iowa graduates. It serves a key role in supporting UNI's leadership in preparing teachers.

Nominees are selected by UNI faculty members and are UNI graduates in at least their fifth year of teaching in a K-12 classroom. Awardees are selected on the basis of teaching materials and student performance.

Caramone was nominated by Wendy Miller, professor of art education, who shared Caramone develops meaningful relationships with her students and demonstrates ways to make connections with them, saying it is important for students to develop meaning through making, and use art as a tool to make a difference in their lives and community.

“UNI has provided me with the tools to have success and continue growing in the areas that Dr. Yager valued,” said Caramone. “I don’t expect all my students to grow up and be artists. What I really want for them - and I tell this to them all the time - is to learn that they are critical thinkers who can solve problems in creative ways. Most of all, I want them to know how much I care about them as people and how much I love being their teacher.”

Nominated by Catherine Miller, professor of mathematics, Mastalio was highlighted for her ability and passion in mathematics teaching. Miller said Mastalio was among the most talented and creative teachers  she has worked with or seen in a classroom. “She is the teacher her students need to succeed,” she added.

"Teenagers, and especially at-risk teenagers, have this beautiful combination of reckless optimism, a mistaken sense of invincibility, and the convictions to fight for justice and equality. They have been knocked down and beat up emotionally and sometimes physically, over and over, and yet when shown love, they react with love,” Mastalio said. “When we teach, we need to remember that we are teaching people. People whose lives, beliefs, hopes and dreams matter. People who just want to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be loved."

Robert E. Yager, was a professor emeritus of science education in the College of Education at the University of Iowa where he taught for 50 years, received his bachelor's degree in biology from UNI in 1950. Yager went on to earn his master's and doctorate degrees in plant physiology from the University of Iowa. His research interests have focused on student motivation and attitudes toward science.