2013: John Otterstedt

John Otterstedt, a third-grade teacher at Hawes Elementary School in Ridgewood, N.J., is the Mensa Foundation's 2013 Distinguished Teacher Award winner.

Nominated by a fellow teacher, John has an approach that is anything but run-of-the-mill. He's known for subtly "tricking" even his most-reluctant third-grade students into better expressing themselves through associative writing prompts, and he's even gone as far as to videotape lessons for a student unable to attend classes due to health issues. Students who struggle in his class are given "immediate and extensive attention," and communication between this teacher and parents is paramount.

John was nominated for the Distinguished Teacher Award by Michael C. Feeney. "With each passing week, Mr. O[tterstedt] grew into more than just the nice-teacher-who-makes-learning-fun; that he certainly was," Michael said. "But beneath his kindly, enthusiastic exterior was a dedicated and zealous educator who demanded — and got — the very best from his students. Mr. O set a fine example of what it meant to go the extra mile."

The Mensa Foundation's Distinguished Teacher Award recognizes a teacher, professor, or instructor at any educational level who's had an especially positive influence on the education or life of a Mensa member. The educators can impact the Mensa members directly or as a result of their influence on the education of a family member. The teacher selected is presented with a plaque and a cash award from the Mensa Education & Research Foundation.

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