Sue Hovey was a longtime educator and Idaho Education Association member who devoted her career and retirement to ensuring quality instruction. She served as one of 35 members of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, helped develop University of Idaho’s first ever program of support for teachers seeking National Board Certification, helped Washington and Hawaii create similar programs, served as an adjunct professor with both University of Idaho and Washington State University, and as a consultant for the Hawaii State Teacher Standards Board from 2002 to 2004. The Sue Hovey Mentoring Award is presented to a current member who has formally or informally mentored new or struggling colleagues and who has acted courageously and with undaunted spirit in the face of those challenges.



Sterling Blackwell

Fruitland Education Association

Nominated by: Gina Ziegler


Sterling Blackwell is the 2023 recipient of IEA’s Sue Honey Mentoring Award.

Sterling Blackwell is the standard for the impact a dedicated, knowledgeable educator mentor can have.

As the Fruitland School District’s mentor teacher and instructional coach, Blackwell is skilled in lesson planning, classroom instruction, classroom management, student engagement and public communication/relations. His busy schedule not only includes supporting certified educators, but every district staff member.

“Our district needed a cheerleader to help our staff thrive, not only for pedagogy but also to improve our culture in the district. Sterling was that person,” said Shane Burrup, principal at Fruitland Middle School, who wrote a recommendation letter supporting Blackwell being awarded IEA’s Sue Hovey Mentoring Award.

Some of the areas Blackwell has been particularly helpful for district employees, according to Burrup,  include technology applications, pedagogical understanding, response to intervention or RTI components, building relationships and improving culture in the district and improving communication among building and district staff.

“Sterling is the person that staff enjoy seeing come into their rooms,” Burrup wrote. “They love him because he is positive, enthusiastic, caring, understanding, and helpful.”

An active member of the Fruitland Education Association, Blackwell was a mentor to his fellow teachers and students long before being hired into his official role with the district, according to Toni Arnzen, the  Fruitland School District’s counselor who also wrote a letter of support.

“Sterling’s charisma, light-hearted humor, and passion for educating is infectious to all he comes into contact with,” wrote Arnzen. “Fruitland could not have hired a better person for the position. He is able to connect with all personalities and build relationships with healthy boundaries.”

But educators aren’t the only ones who’ve benefitted from Blackwell’s knowledge and mentorship. He’s also a part time instructor at the Treasure Valley Community College and he developed the musical theater program in Fruitland, according to Gina Ziegler, who nominated him for the award.

“He is not only an inspiring mentor for adults in our district he has mentored hundreds, if not thousands, of students through his love of theater and teaching,” Ziegler wrote.

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