Remembering Terry Shay, Dot Day founder

Scholarship fund established in late North Tama educator’s name

Dot Day founder and retired North Tama vocal music teacher, the late Terry Shay, right, pictured with “The Dot” author Peter H. Reynolds. As part of Dot Day celebrations this year, a scholarship fund in Mr. Shay’s name was established at Farmers Savings Bank & Trust in Traer. PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER H. REYNOLDS

On September 28, 2023, North Tama educator and consummate dot connector Terry Shay, of Waterloo, passed away suddenly. The outpouring of grief around the globe was a testament to the fact that Terry truly made his mark on the world.

In 2009, Terry shared The Dot book, written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, with his students at North Tama Community School, and together they decided to celebrate the themes of the book by creating dots, signing them, and sharing how they would make their mark on the world. In so doing, they launched International Dot Day, which would be adopted as a signature project of The Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning & Creativity (ReynoldsTLC.org) and – with foundational support from superstar librarians Shannon M. Miller and John Schumacher – has become a global celebration of creativity and compassion reaching tens of millions in over 200 countries and sovereign territories.

Terry was the embodiment of kindness and generosity. He made it a point to reach out and support thousands of fellow educators, classroom teachers, and librarians – always with a level of care and connection that made everyone feel noticed, appreciated, and loved.

Terry was a cosmic brother to so many of us at FableVision/Reynolds Center TLC. We would be in touch almost daily with exchanges on Dot Day development and plans, sharing the latest jaw-dropping social media posts, and comparing humorous antics from our daily journeys.

Terry was an especially dear friend to Peter H. Reynolds, who in turn introduced Terry into the world of children’s book publishing, authors, and illustrators. He was especially drawn to creators who made it a point to inspire others on their creative journeys. As Terry cultivated this network, he launched a special online project called CelebriDots, which started in 2011 when Newbery Medalist Sharon Creech sent him a dot on Dot Day. He would go on to feature an extensive online dot gallery created by fellow celebrity creatives such as Eric Carle, Wendell Minor, Hervé Tullet, Nancy Tupper Ling, Pascal Lemaître, Marissa Moss, David Ezra Stein, Elizabeth Rose Stanton, Scott Magoon, Josh Funk, Alison McGhee, Matt Tavares, and Sandra Boynton, to name a just a few in this extraordinary collection.

Shortly after retirement in 2023, Terry launched his new venture as School Visit Dot Connector, helping facilitate school visits for children’s book authors and illustrators. Despite his passing, his beloved wife Ellen will keep that service going. For more details visit School Visit Dot Connector.

Terry received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Northern Iowa and taught vocal music for 37 years in Lost Nation and Plainfield, retiring from North Tama in Traer after 33 years in May 2023. On February 12, 2024, Terry was presented with a posthumous honor for his efforts to encourage creativity and artistic and academic courage in youth around the world, presented by Peter H. Reynolds at a multi-day Dot Day celebration, which included a special performance of “DOT DOT DOT: A New Musical.”

Tens of millions of teachers, librarians, students, and families have been touched by Terry. We take comfort knowing that his legacy will live on through the International Dot Day community to which Terry was so tirelessly and enthusiastically devoted over the last fifteen years.

A scholarship has been set up in Terry’s name to support students in his local community where he taught for so many years.

Donations can be made here: Terry Shay Scholarship Fund, Farmers Savings Bank & Trust, 611 2nd Street, Traer, IA 50675.

And so we will carry on in his name – redoubling our efforts to keep International Dot Day going and growing.