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Cindy Bell, front and center, is presented with the 2021 Wickham Education Service Award. Front from left, Amy Wickham Niemer, Bell and Brenda Wickham; back, Tom Wickham, Andy Wickham and Jay Wickham.

It takes quite a bit to catch a veteran elementary teacher off guard, especially one with more than two decades of experience under the belt, but on June 4 the Wickham family was able to do just that.

The annual Wickham Education Service Award this year was given to Cindy Bell, a 24-year veteran social studies teacher at Drexler Middle School.

“I’m speechless,” Bell said after receiving the award. “I really don’t know what to say.”

Bell began teaching in Farley-Bankston and RHCL parochial schools and doing substitute teaching following her 1982 graduation from the University of Northern Iowa before she went full-time in the fall of 1997. Bell also served as the assistant girls’ varsity basketball coach at Western Dubuque High School from 1997-2016.

In her nomination, Bell was praised for her willingness and leadership on building-level committees and for the countless hours she has spent on the implementation of the program “Its Learning.”

She was also described as the technology expert in the Drexler building and the go-to person if problems arise.

Bell is a life-long learner and strives to be on the cutting edge of teaching strategies. When Drexler implemented a new behavior program, Bell took on the task of giving extra support to the least organized and most needy students. The paraprofessionals who have worked in her classroom comment on how she makes learning fun, making her one of the many excellent educators on the Drexler staff.

The Brenda and Tom Educational Service award has entered its 20th year and Bell marked the 22nd individual to receive a cash award. Due to the difficult year brought on by COVID-19, the Wickham family chose to increase the cash award from $1,000 to $2,000.

The award was established by the eight Wickham children in recognition of the combined 50 years of service their parents gave to the Western Dubuque School District.

Tom began teaching and coaching at Peosta High School in 1961 before becoming the principal and school administrator throughout the district from 1965 to 1998. Although he retired in 1998, he returned to coach tennis and basketball from 2000-05.

Brenda began her teaching career in 1990 at Epworth Elementary teaching special needs children. Over the next 12 years, she spent time at both Epworth and Drexler working with first through fifth-grade students before retiring at the end of the 2001-02 school year.

Each of the eight Wickham children attended Western Dubuque Schools from 1967 up to 1995.